Melanoma is one of the most severe types of skin cancer that grows in melanocytes, which are the cells responsible for producing pigment in our skin. This cancer begins in the skin, but it can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. However, it can be treated successfully, especially if detected early in its development. With this in mind, it’s essential to know more about melanoma and how it’s treated. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the features of melanoma, its risk factors, and the different treatments available to manage and cure this cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
Melanoma usually occurs in areas of your skin that have been exposed to the sun. Thus, it usually presents as a change in an existing mole or as a new growth on your skin. Some signs and symptoms of melanoma to watch out for include:
- A mole that is large or has an uneven border
- A mole that changes in color, shape, or size
- A mole that is itchy or painful
- A mole that bleeds or oozes
- A new growth on your skin that resembles a wart or a blister
Risk Factors of Melanoma
We can’t avoid the risk factors of melanoma completely. However, being aware of these factors can help us practice a healthy lifestyle and regular skin check-ups to prevent and detect melanoma early. Some of the common risk factors of melanoma are:
- Having fair skin, blue or green eyes, blonde or red hair, and many moles on the skin
- A family history of melanoma or other types of skin cancer
- Being exposed to intense sunlight or tanning beds frequently
- Having a weak immune system due to a disease or medication
Different Treatments Options for Melanoma
After a diagnosis of melanoma, it’s essential to seek a doctor’s opinion regarding the best treatment options. The type of cancer, its stage, and medical history determine the treatment plan. Here are some of the different treatment options for melanoma:
- Surgery – The primary treatment for melanoma is surgery to remove the cancerous cells, and the surrounding tissues, in most cases. Depending on the stage of melanoma, different types of surgeries may be performed. If melanoma is small and hasn’t spread, the surgery would be minor, and it could be done in an outpatient setting. However, if it’s advanced, the surgery might involve removing the entire affected area, like a toe or the limb. This is known as amputation.
- Radiation Therapy – This treatment uses high-energy beams or radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It’s not often used as the only treatment for melanoma, but it’s often used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy can cause some side effects, such as fatigue, skin discoloration, and hair loss.
- Immunotherapy – This treatment uses substances that stimulate the immune system to fight cancer cells in the body. It uses drugs that target specific proteins on cancer cells, which helps to stop them from growing and spreading. Immunotherapy is usually used to treat advanced cases of melanoma where the cancer is no longer responsive to other treatments.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells that have spread through the body. It’s not usually the first choice of treatment for melanoma because it’s only effective in a small number of cases. However, it’s sometimes used when melanoma has spread beyond the skin. Chemotherapy can cause some side effects such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and fatigue.
- Targeted Therapy – This treatment uses medications to target specific genes or proteins in cancer cells that encourage growth. It works by blocking these genes or proteins, which can slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. This treatment is often used in patients with advanced melanoma that aren’t responding to other treatments. Targeted therapy can cause some side effects, such as skin rash, diarrhea, and tiredness.
Prevention of Melanoma
Avoiding melanoma is possible through some lifestyle changes. Here are a few tips to prevent melanoma from occurring:
- Always wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Avoid being outside between 10 am to 4 pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Wear protective clothing when outside, such as hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts.
- Avoid the use of tanning beds and tanning products.
Melanoma can be a terrifying diagnosis, but it can be prevented by taking the necessary precautions and seeking professional help once you notice the symptoms. There are different treatments available for melanoma to manage and cure it, depending on the type of cancer and its stage.
Remember to visit your dermatologist regularly, especially if you are in high-risk categories, to ensure early detection and to increase your chances of getting rid of this disease.
To schedule a skin exam, contact us today!