The most serious type of skin cancer is melanoma. It spreads rapidly and can affect any organ. Melanoma is caused by melanocytes, which are skin cells. Those cells make melanin, the skin pigment. If you don't treat melanoma early, it can spread to other areas of your body.
Melanoma is classified into four categories.
- Superficial spreading melanoma – A prevalent kind of melanoma that affects the trunk or limbs
- Nodular melanoma – Most commonly found on the chest, neck, or head
- Lentigo maligna melanoma – This occurs less frequently in older persons.
- Acral lentiginous melanoma spreads on the palms, feet, and under the nails.
While anybody can get melanoma, those with the following issues are more vulnerable:
- A personal experience with melanoma
- Genetic and environmental factors
- Melanoma in the family
- Fair complexion with freckle, red hair, and blue eyes
- Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation
- Living in the equatorial region or at high altitudes may increase UV exposure
- Exposed to sunbeds and tanning lamps
- Numerous moles, particularly atypical moles
Signs or Symptoms
The most common melanoma signs and symptoms include:
- A change of colour, discharge, spread of an existing mole
- The appearance of a new, pigmented growth or other abnormalities on your skin
These are the other symptoms that should necessitate an appointment with a doctor:
- When you notice any changes in your skin (such as a new mole), call your doctor immediately.
- An untreated skin sore
- Itchy, painful, or tender skin patches
- An infected area or sore that begins to bleed
- A shining, waxy, smooth or light patch or lump
- A firm, red mass that bleeds, seems ulcerated or is crusty in appearance
- A dry, rough, or scaly flat, red spot
If melanoma occurs, a doctor will recommend treatments based on the extent of the melanoma's spread, which may include the following:
- Surgery is the primary method for treating different stages of melanoma.
- Chemotherapy happens when a doctor uses drugs to target cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy is a mode of treatment wherein a doctor provides immune-boosting medications to combat cancer.
- Radiation therapy involves X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill or inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy uses drugs to identify specific genes or proteins associated with melanoma.
The following factors can also enhance skin cancer risk:
- A high freckle density or a proclivity to acquire freckles in response to sunlight exposure
- A significant number of moles
- Five or more unusual moles on the skin
- Actinic lentigines (liver spots or ageing spots)
- Brown birthmarks are known as "giant congenital melanocytic nevi".
- Pale skin that tans slowly and burns easily
- Light-coloured eyes
- Light or red hair
- Excessive sun exposure, especially if it results in a blistering sunburn and if the exposure is irregular
- Older age
- A personal or family history of melanoma
- Previous organ transplantation
Melanoma's stage of progression is classified according to tumour thickness and other factors.
Melanoma spreads through the following stages:
- Stage 0 (melanoma in situ)
- Stage I
- Stage II
- Stage III
- Stage IV
After surgery, several tests and treatments may be performed:
- Mapping of lymph nodes and sentinel lymph node biopsy
- CT scan (CAT scan)
- PET scan
- Gadolinium MRI
- Ultrasound examination
- Blood chemistry tests
Avoiding excessive UV exposure can help minimise your risk of developing skin cancer. This can be achieved by:
- Preventing sunburn
- Sun-protective clothing
- Staying away from tanning lamps and beds
- Applying broad-spectrum UV sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, preferably with a physical blocker like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
- Applying sunscreen liberally 30 minutes before going out in the sun
- Reapplying sunscreen every two hours and immediately after swimming or sweating to ensure adequate protection
- Finding shade location between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Keeping kids in the shade, wearing protective clothing, and using SPF 50+ sunscreen
- Preventing infants from being exposed to direct sunlight
A good diet can boost your immune system. A healthy immune system helps the body fight against the disease.
Your doctor will use the following criteria for deciding your melanoma stage:
- Measure the thickness
- Check to see if lymph nodes have been affected by the melanoma
- Search for cancer beyond the skin
Survival rates indicate the percentage of persons diagnosed with the same cancer stage who survive for a specified period (typically five years) after diagnosis. Their effectiveness cannot predict your life expectancy, but they can help you assess the chances of favourable treatment. Your doctor will help you understand how these statistics apply to your case.
Factors Affecting Prognosis
Prognosis and treatment choices are dependent on:
- The tumour's thickness and location within the body
- The rate at which cancer cells multiply
- Whether or not the tumour was bleeding or had ulcers
- The amount of cancer in the lymph nodes
- The number of sites where cancer has spread
- Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels in the blood
- Whether the malignancy has mutations (changes) in the BRAF gene
- The patient's age and overall health condition
When you get any of the following, you need to see a doctor for a skin examination:
- Cancer or abnormal moles
- Skin cancer in the family
- A history of unpleasant or blistering sunburns as a young person
- The presence of new or several large moles
- A change in the size, colour or shape of a mole
- Any itch, bleeding or painful mole
If melanoma is detected late, the patient may experience complications. Among them are:
- Skin sore infection
- Necrosis of the skin and pain in the area of the skin sore
- Lymphoedema is a condition in which the patient's lymph nodes become inflamed, and fluid accumulates in the limbs.
Our BLK-Max Medical Experts
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