Most of us often notice moles and brown spots on our skin that are more prominent in harsh weather. We usually disregard them as mere imperfections of the skin without giving it a second thought. Occasional moles and growths on skin are indeed harmless. However, fatal skin diseases usually start from these minor skin changes and one should recognize the variations of their skin to avoid any terminal illness.
One such skin disease is melanoma that starts developing from moles. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. If melanoma is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, it is almost, always curable. Unfortunately, if the cancer advances and spreads to other parts of the body – it can become hard to treat and often be fatal. According to the National Cancer Institute, the disease has been diagnosed in more than 87,000 Americans. Moreover, melanoma kills an estimated 10,130 people in the USA annually.
Here we give you a brief overview of the illness along with treatment details.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer that develops in melanocytes – the cells responsible for producing the pigment melanin. The cancerous growths (most often caused by excessive UV exposure) lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form tumors. These tumors usually resemble black and brown moles but can also be skin-colored, pink, purple, red, and white.
Causes of melanoma
Excessive UV exposure from sunlight and tanning bed is said to be the primary cause of melanoma. People who live in locations with more sunlight are at more risk of skin cancers as well while light-skinned individuals and those who frequently use tanning beds can also develop the disease.
Other causes of melanoma include family history of the ailment, weak immunity, and genetic risk factors.
Warning signs of melanoma
Any unusual skin change such as occurrence of too many moles, lumps, and blemishes can be a sign of melanoma or any other type of skin disease.
Some other warning signs of melanoma include:
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- Redness besides a mole
- Itchiness or tenderness
- A scaling, bleeding, or oozing mole
Types of melanoma
The most common type of melanoma is the Superficial Spreading Melanoma. The malignant cells usually develop slowly at first and the symptoms usually occur on the arms, chest, legs and back.
The Nodular Melanoma is the second most common type of skin disease. It grows rapidly and turns dark red rather than black or brown. The symptoms usually appear on the chest, back, neck, and head.
The less common types of melanoma are:
- Lentigo Maligna Melanoma: The skin disorder is common in older people who have gone through several years of skin exposure. The cancerous mole grows slowly and is usually found on the face and neck.
- Acral Lentiginous Melanoma: The symptoms of this type of melanoma are commonly seen on the palms of hands and soles of the feet. They can also be seen under the finger and toenails. The Acral Lentiginous melanoma is common in individuals with black and brown skin.
The treatment plan for melanoma varies from patient to patient. In the initial stage, the medical team surgically removes the melanoma and thoroughly examines the surgical margins to ensure that no cancer cells are left. In most cases, the surgery takes places as an outpatient procedure and the patients are advised rest of 1-2 weeks, depending on the stitches.
The treatment plan at Sheba Medical Center also includes body scans to ascertain that the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. In the case of cancer already being malicious, the patients are recommended chemotherapy and radiation. However, this is solely dependent on the patient’s condition, the type of melanoma, and the severity of the cancer.
To avoid melanoma and other skin condition, it is important to avoid excessive sun exposure by using hats, sunglasses, protective clothing, and most importantly – sun block when going outdoors in daytime. It is also a good idea to examine your skin every month and visit a dermatologist annually for a professional checkup.