What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that begins in the cells called melanocytes that produce melanin. It is believed that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and tanning beds greatly increases your risk of developing melanoma.
This form of skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body but is most common in areas that have regular exposure to the sun such as the face, arms, back, and legs. Commonly, the first signs of melanoma include a change in the appearance of an existing mole or the development of new unusual-looking growth on the skin. It is important that you check your skin regularly for unusual pigmented lesions. Do not forget to check your soles, palms, genitals, scalp, fingernails, and toenails.
Who is a Good Candidate for Melanoma Treatment?
Individuals who have noticed any changes in their skin that seem unusual should see a dermatologist for a skin assessment. Some individuals may be at a higher risk for developing melanoma, including those with fair skin, a history of sunburns, excessive UV light exposure, a family history of skin cancer, a weakened immune system, or have a history of atypical moles. The best way to properly assess, diagnose, and treat melanoma is through a consultation with one of our dermatologists.
What to Expect During Melanoma Treatment?
Treatment options for small melanomas:
For early-stage melanomas, surgery is performed to remove the skin cancer. In cases of wide excision, your dermatologist will remove the cancer as well as a standard margin of healthy skin, which will then be re-examined by a dermatopathologist to ensure all skin cancer has been removed.
Treatment options for melanomas that have spread:
In cases where melanoma has spread beyond the skin, treatment options may include:
- Immunotherapy: This drug treatment enables your immune system to fight cancer. This option is often recommended after surgery for melanoma that has spread to other areas of the body such as lymph nodes or distant organs.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment involves the use of strong energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. This technique may also be used to treat melanomas that cannot be removed fully with surgery.
- Surgery to remove lymph nodes: If melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes, the affected nodes may be removed. A sentinel lymph node biopsy may be recommended if your melanoma is at higher risk for spread.
- Chemotherapy: This involves the use of drugs that kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is available in pill form, intravenously, or both.
Can a dermatologist tell if a mole is cancerous just by looking at it?
A dermatologist may suspect that a pigmented lesion is cancerous by looking at it, but they can not be sure without a biopsy of the tissue.
Can melanoma be picked up in blood tests?
Blood tests are not used to diagnose melanoma. However, your doctor may suggest a blood test before or during treatment for more advanced stages of melanoma.
Can a melanoma appear overnight?
Melanomas can sometimes appear suddenly or without warning. Melanomas can resemble a mole, and you should monitor any moles or spots for changes in size, shape, color, or border.
Can Melanoma go away on its own?
It is possible for melanoma to seemingly regress on the surface of the skin. In these rare cases, the bodyandrsquo;s immune system might react to the disease, but the melanoma may still spread to other organ systems. It is important to always seek diagnosis and treatment from a dermatologist.
Can chemotherapy or immunotherapy treat melanoma?
Immunotherapy and chemotherapy are used to treat advanced stages of melanoma. However, the vast majority of melanoma is treated with wide local excision (skin surgery) and requires no further therapy.
Following Melanoma Treatment
The main goal of melanoma treatment is to completely eliminate the cancer from the body. Your dermatologist will provide you with post-treatment instructions.
There are many ways that you can reduce your risk for melanoma and other skin cancers, including:
- Avoiding the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.).
- Wearing sunscreen throughout the year.
- Avoiding tanning lamps and tanning beds.
- Wearing protective clothing when spending time in bright sunlight.
- Being familiar with your skin so that you are aware of when changes occur.
Schedule a Consultation
To learn more about melanoma treatment at HMGS Dermatology, contact our office today! The diagnosis and treatment of melanoma are one of our most important missions. We will be happy to help you schedule a consultation with one of our dermatologists or physician assistants.
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