What does FAST mean?
So melanoma is a fast growing cancer. What does that mean?
Does it appear overnight? Mine was .4cm x.5 cm x 2mm thick.
How long did it take to grow to that size? hours? Days? weeks? Months?
How do they start? Would a rough scratch or accidentlal "cuts" cause it to change from a mole to a cancer?
Fast is a relative term. How fast it goes does not primarily depend on the cell type (Melanoma vs other skin cancers) but more on the grade/stage of the cancer. I does not grown in days... certainly not overnight... even at stage IV. I would not think you would notice much growth over the course of a couple of weeks even for the most aggressive Melanoma. However, you might notice some changes in color or growth in ulceration.
It depends on alot of variables.... the histological type of melanoma, i.e. superficial spreading melanoma or nodular (the latter skips the radial growth phase and goes straight to the vertical growth phase)... how innately aggressive one's specific melanoma may be, etc...
Most studies I've read state that the melanoma tumorigenesis process can last for years at the cellular level -- the patient just doesn't know it because it is literally transparent to us....
Melanoma just doesn't appear out of nowhere -- whether it came out of a pre-existing mole or "de novo" -- out of clear skin as mine did...
I've replayed the sequence of events in my mind a hundred times in regard to "when" I first noticed something awry.... In August 07, I visit a podiatrist and clearly remember seeing the bottom of my feet and toes and there wasn't anything "remarkable" on the bottom of my left foot's 2nd toe....
In October 07, I visited Washington DC on business and had 3 consecutive nights of the most extreme night sweats I've ever experienced ¦.I didn't have the flu or a cold, wasn't dehydrated, and it wasn't hot in DC¦Yet, at 2:30 - 3AM every night for three nights running, I had to take a shower and change to the other bed in the hotel room because the sheets in the bed I was sleeping in were literally soaked¦. I should say that night sweats are not normally associated with melanoma as they are with other cancers but I'm convinced that this is when my melanoma hit "critical mass" and became a malignancy and the night sweats were a by-product of my immune system's reaction¦.
In late Nov/early December 07, I saw a derm while visiting my parent's home but she neglected to inspect my feet -- no one gets mel on the sole of a foot or on the bottom of a toe right ?
In early January 08 - I noticed a small, lightly tanned callous on the bottom of my left foot's 2nd toe which was about 3mm across and looked like a mini-football (American football) and I dismissed it as a callous from breaking in new gymn shoes while using my elliptical cardio machine at home¦
In late Feb 08, I noticed that my left foot's toes began to itch -- obvious athelete's foot right?
In April, I noticed this strange looking "wart-like" lesion on the bottom of my 2nd toe that was the same color as my other callouses but which was elevated¦ I resolved to see a podiatrist when I was on vacation visiting family the next month¦. When I saw the podiatrist the next month, this guy seemed really put upon seeing patients (which annoyed me greatly) and dismissed it as a phylogenic wart -- he really didn't want to do anything about it and I left his office thinking what a waste of time that was !
The 3rd week of July 08, I saw my old podiatrist who also thought it was a phylogenic wart and he removed it but -- just to be safe -- sent it off to pathology for biopsy¦. A week later, he called me in Hawaii and -- obviously shook up a bit -- told me it was a melanoma ¦.at least 3mm thick (I about puked when I heard how thick it was)¦. Later, at the NCI Cancer Center where I was treated, they relooked the slides and determined that it was 2.40mm thick (still T3a) but better¦..
So in my case, I suspect the tumorigenesis process/melanocyte mutation began with a bad sunburn on the top of my feet and between my toes when I was on vacation in Cannes, France (French Riviera) while stationed in Germany -- in 1985 (23 years before diagnosis) or in 2002 when I got another sunburn on the top of my feet and between my toes in Hawaii (6 years before diagnosis)¦.. But for sure, nothing was observable until December 07/Jan 08 timeframe and by July 08, it was 2.40mm thick¦.
The one thing I can say for sure, is that the "flash to bang" time for most melanoma primary tumors can be measured in at least months, probably years and --- with the exception possibly of nodular melanoma -- certainly not in weeks or months¦.