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Melanoma/Skin cancer


Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.


Symptoms

A mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin can be a sign of melanoma or other skin cancer. A sore or growth that bleeds, or changes in skin coloring may also be a sign of skin cancer. The ABCDE system can help you remember possible symptoms of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half.
  • Borders: The edges of the growth are irregular.
  • Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black, and sometimes white, red, or blue. A mixture of colors may appear within one sore.
  • Diameter: The spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter, about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolution: The mole keeps changing appearance.

The key to successfully treating melanoma is recognizing symptoms early. You might not notice a small spot if you don't look carefully. Have yearly body checks by a dermatologist, and examine your skin once a month. Use a hand mirror to check hard-to-see places. Call your doctor if you notice anything unusual.


Treatment

Surgery is needed to treat melanoma. The skin cancer and some surrounding tissue will be removed. How much skin is removed depends on how deep the melanoma has grown. If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, these lymph nodes may also be removed. After surgery, you may receive a medicine called interferon. Treatment is more difficult when the melanoma has spread to other organs. When it spreads to other organs, it usually cannot be cured. Treatment involves shrinking the skin cancer and making you as comfortable as possible. You may receive:

  • Chemotherapy: Medicines are used to kill cancer cells. It is usually given if the melanoma has returned or spread.
  • Immunotherapy: Medications such as interferon or interleukin help your immune system fight the cancer. They may be used along with chemotherapy and surgery.
  • Radiation treatments: These may be used to relieve pain or discomfort caused by cancer that has spread.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be done to remove cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. This is done to relieve pain or discomfort associated with the growing cancer.

Prognosis

How well a patient does depends on many things, including how quickly the cancer was diagnosed and how far it has spread.


If caught early, some melanomas can be cured.


Melanoma that is very deep or has spread to the lymph nodes is more likely to return after treatment. If it is deeper than 4 mm or has spread to the lymph nodes, you are more likely to have the cancer spread to other tissues and organs.


Melanoma usually cannot be cured when the cancer has spread beyond the skin and nearby lymph nodes. If you have had melanoma and recovered, it is very important to examine your body regularly for any unusual changes. Your risk for melanoma is increased once you have had this cancer. Melanoma may return years later.


For more information on melanoma click here

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