Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that impacts tens of thousands of Americans today. While a diagnosis for melanoma can be alarming, know that there are advanced treatment options available that have helped many patients reach a full recovery.
What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer that forms on the skin or other pigmented bodily tissues, such as the intestines and eyes. Melanocytes, the root of melanoma, are cells that change tissue pigment into melanin. Melanin is a different type of pigment that functions to protect the skin from UV rays. Patients can identify melanoma as changes to the skin, especially a new mole or a mole that’s changed.
Melanoma is considered the most severe form of skin cancer. It is considered dangerous because it can quickly spread to other areas of the body (namely the organs) if left untreated for too long. With that being said, melanoma is rarer than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Damage to DNA from UV radiation is the main cause of melanoma. Excessive sun exposure or use of indoor tanning booths are common causes of UV radiation.
What Does Melanoma Look Like?
You can differentiate between a melanoma and a regular mole by looking out for the “ABCDEs”, which represent common signs of melanoma. These include:
- A: Asymmetry, which refers to the asymmetric shape of melanomas (Benign moles are often circular or oval in shape, but a melanoma is usually irregular in shape.)
- B: Border, which refers to the uneven or jagged perimeter of most melanomas
- C: Color, which refers to the variety of colors that may appear in a single melanoma, including gray, tan, brown, black, white, red, pink, and blue
- D: Diameter, which refers to the average size of a melanoma: ¼ of an inch
- E: Evolving, which refers to the tendency of melanoma to change in color, size, and shape
Melanoma may also bleed, crust over, appear scaly, or itch.
How Is Melanoma Treated?
Melanoma is a serious condition, but advancements in skin cancer treatment mean that there’s hope today for patients to make a full recovery. Prior to treatment, your doctor will examine your case of melanoma to determine the stage of the condition. Recommended melanoma treatments may vary depending on which stage you are in.
Surgical treatment can be highly effective for early stage melanoma. Typically, excisional surgery will be performed to remove the cancerous tissue. If the surgery is performed early on in the progression of melanoma, it may be the only treatment needed for a full recovery. Mohs surgery is another treatment option for melanoma in which the cancerous tissues are removed in stages, minimizing the removal of the healthy surrounding tissue.
Immunotherapies, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and medications may be used, often in conjunction with surgical treatment, to target melanoma in its later stages.
If you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of melanoma, contact us today to learn more about the treatments available for this condition.