Melanoma Skin Cancer – Treatment
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that could be life-threatening if not detected. Melanoma accounts for more than 80 percent of all skin-cancer deaths, which is why Harris Dermatology stresses the importance of regular skin checks.
Symptoms of Melanoma
Early signs of melanoma are related to changes in the shape or color of existing moles, or the development of new moles on the body. Early signs of melanoma are generally identified by the ABCDE's of skin cancer:
- Border irregularity
- Color variation
- Diameter greater than 6 mm
- Evolution over time
Early and Late Stages
Early signs of melanoma may develop from existing moles or may resemble moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. During later stages, a melanoma may itch or bleed.
What are the Risks of Leaving Melanoma Untreated?
If a melanoma is diagnosed and treated in its early stages, it is usually curable; however, during later stages, it can rapidly spread to other parts of the body, become hard to treat, and possibly be fatal.
What are the Causes?
What causes melanoma is not known, although there are many suspected risk factors, including overexposure to sunlight or ultraviolet radiation, sun sensitivity, immune-system deficiency, family history of melanoma or previous melanoma in the patient, and even the presence of many freckles or moles on the body.
Although Caucasian ancestry is a suspected risk factor, all races and skin tones are susceptible to melanoma.
Treatment for melanoma depends on its location, thickness and progression, as well as the patient's age, health, medical history and preferences. A biopsy is often performed to determine the extent of the cancer. Most often, the appropriate treatment is surgery and in most cases, the surgery for thin melanomas can be done right here at our office as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia. Stitches (sutures) remain in place for one to two weeks, and most patients are advised to avoid heavy exercise during this time. Scars are usually small and improve over time.
Discolorations and areas that are depressed or raised following the surgery can be concealed with cosmetics specially formulated to provide camouflage. If the melanoma is larger and requires more extensive surgery. You will need to consult with one of our doctors regarding options for reconstruction if that becomes necessary.