Skin Conditions

Melanoma: Symptoms and Treatment

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer that is known to affect men and women alike. Skin cancer is an extremely alarming condition and has claimed lives if left undetected. There are several types of skin cancer, each with its distinct symptoms, and each equally fatal. However, out of the different types of skin cancer, melanoma is considered to be the most severe form of skin cancer and forms 1 percent of the total population affected by skin cancer.

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops in the cells—melanocytes—which produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives the skin its color, which magnifies the severity of the condition. Though the exact causes of melanoma remain unclear, the same has been attributed to the DNA damage to some cells that grow abnormally. However, doctors believe that melanoma can be caused by direct exposure to the sun, which is why they lay emphasis on using ample sun protection options. The symptoms of melanoma include:

  • A change in the existing mole.
  • The sudden development of new pigmented or unusual-looking growth on the skin.

Like every other form of cancer, melanoma can be treated only if it is diagnosed in its initial stages. Advanced melanoma can be treated only to limit cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. The popular forms of treatment for this form of skin cancer are as follows:

1. Surgery

If this form of skin cancer is in its initial stages, it implies that the melanomas are limited to the top layer of the skin (epidermis). In such situations, the oncologist will recommend surgery (wide excision) to remove the melanoma and a small margin of normal skin around it. For melanomas that occur in sensitive areas on the face, Mohs surgery or imiquimod cream if the surgery can disfigure the face. In cases where the melanomas have spread to the nearby lymph nodes, the surgeon can remove the affected nodes.

2. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy makes use of medications to destroy the cancer cells. The medicines are either administered intravenously or in the form of pills so that it travels throughout the body. At times, chemotherapy can also be administered in a vein in the arm or leg in a procedure called isolated limb perfusion. This is done with the intention of preventing drugs from traveling to other parts of the body.

3. Immunotherapy

This form of skin cancer treatment focuses on helping the immune system find and attack cancer cells. The medicines can be injected directly into the body or will be administered through an IV every 2 to 4 weeks. In case the patient has melanomas on the face, the doctor might prescribe a cream that revs up the immune cells around the tumor. However, there are instances when immunotherapy drugs attack the healthy cells in the body, which is why it is essential to switch treatments if this happens.

4. Radiation therapy

This form of skin cancer treatment makes use of high-powered energy beams, such as the X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often recommended after surgery to remove the lymph nodes.

5. Targeted therapy

Cancer cells tend to multiply abnormally and divide too fast. Targeted therapy makes use of medications that are engineered to target the specific vulnerabilities in the cancer cells that allow it to grow uncontrollably.