Unlike other minor skin problems, such as dermatofibroma (see dermatofibroma FAQs), melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer type, and it can be deadly. But with early detection and treatment, many people with melanoma can survive and even thrive.
Read on to learn more about melanoma, its signs and symptoms, and your treatment options.
What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer developing in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. It can occur anywhere on the human body, but it’s most likely to develop in more sun-exposed areas, including the face, neck, chest, back, and legs.
While melanoma makes up only a small percentage of all skin cancers, it’s by far the most dangerous type. It can spread quickly and aggressively to other parts of the body, which can be difficult to treat.
Melanoma causes are not fully understood, but experts believe that both genetic and environmental factors play a role. Having fair skin, red hair, or a family history of melanoma increases your risk. Spending a lot of time in the sun without proper protection is also a factor.
Stages of Melanoma
Once melanoma is diagnosed, your doctor will stage cancer to determine how far it has spread. There are four main stages of melanoma:
Stage 0: Cancer stays to the top layer of the skin and has not spread.
Stage I: Cancer has spread to the second layer of skin but is still less than 2mm thick.
Stage II: The cancer is more than 2mm thick but has not spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.
Stage III: It has spread to the lymph nodes but not to other organs.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other organs, such as the liver or lungs.
Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
The early signs of melanoma are usually easy to spot. Look for changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole or any new moles on your body.
If you have a mole that changes or notices any new moles, it’s essential to see a doctor immediately. Early detection is the best way to the successful treatment of melanoma.
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- A mole that bleeds or oozes
- A mole that is painful or itchy
How Dangerous Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is deadly. Each year, more than 9,008 people in the United States die from this cancer.
The key to beating melanoma is to catch it early before it has a chance to spread. That’s why it’s important to see a reliable skin clinic regularly, such as TMSC, to perform regular self-exams of your skin. Don’t wait to get it checked out if you notice anything suspicious.
When caught early, melanoma is often very treatable. The five-year survival rate for individuals with localized melanoma (melanoma that hasn’t spread) is about 98.4 percent. The five-year survival rate depends on how far the cancer has progressed for people with advanced melanoma (melanoma that has spread). Visit the TMSC website to find an experienced doctor.
What Are the Treatment Options for Melanoma?
Melanoma treatments depend on the stage of the cancer. For early-stage melanomas, surgery is usually the only treatment needed. The goal is to eliminate the entire tumor and a margin of healthy tissue around it. In some instances, lymph nodes may also be removed.
For more advanced melanomas, surgery may not be enough. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy can also be considered. These treatments may help slow down the cancer progression and improve your symptoms.
No matter what stage your melanoma is, you must work with a team of experienced doctors who can develop a treatment plan that’s suitable for you.
How to Prevent Melanoma?
Here are the most effective measures to avoid melanoma:
- Avoid excessive sun exposure. When under the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply it every two hours.
- Check your skin regularly. Perform a self-exam every month, and see a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional exam.
- When staying outdoors for too long, wear protective clothing, such as a hat and sunglasses.
- You can also reduce your risk of melanoma by avoiding indoor tanning. Tanning beds and sunlamps can damage your skin and increase cancer risk. If it’s necessary to use them, follow all safety instructions carefully.
The Bottom Line
Melanoma is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer, but it’s also one of the most treatable. With early detection and proper treatment, many people with melanoma can survive and even thrive. So if you’re worried about melanoma, don’t wait to get checked out. The earlier you learn about it, the higher your chances of curing it.
On top of these, choose an experienced dermatologist to perform a full skin exam at least yearly or frequently if you have any concerns. TMSC also provides other skin problem treatments, such as seborrheic keratosis and they will educate you well on seborrheic keratosis symptoms to help you decide on your treatment options.