All You Need To Know About Melanoma
Skin cancers are one of the most commonly occurring cancers. Skin cancers occur as a result of abnormal proliferation of the skin cells. There are three types of skin cancers: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and Melanoma. Among all the skin cancers, Melanoma is the least common one. However, it has the potential to grow, spread, and affect the surrounding tissues, and hence, it is a deadly one.
Please keep reading for more information on Melanoma, its symptoms, causes and risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment.
What Is Melanoma cancer?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can rapidly grow and spread into other organs if not treated in its early stage. Its ability to grow and spread quickly makes it deadly cancer. Melanoma occurs in the skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are responsible for the production of melanin (a pigment that gives colour to the skin. Melanoma can also happen in the eyes, and it also seldom occurs inside the body in the nose or throat.
Melanoma is otherwise also called malignant Melanoma or cutaneous Melanoma. Melanoma cells often produce melanin; hence, the tumors usually appear brown or black. But in some instances, melanoma cells do not produce melanin; thus, they appear pink, white, or tan.
Symptoms Of Melanoma
Normal moles are usually of uniform colour like brown, black, or tan. Their size is either oval or round, and they may be flat or raised. Normal moles are usually small and measure less than 6 millimeters (around ¼ inch). Moles typically appear in childhood or early adulthood. However, moles that grow later in life must be checked by a doctor. Any changes in the mole’s size, colour, shape, or texture can indicate the development of Melanoma. Certain hidden melanomas may also occur under the nail, in the mouth, vagina, eye, digestive tract, and urinary tract.
The “ABCDE” Rule
The ABCDE refers to the rules that act as a guide to help recognize the symptoms of Melanoma. The ABCDE stands for the following:
- A stands for Asymmetry: One-half of the moles appear to be different from the other half, i.e., it does not match.
- B stands for Border: The borders of the mole look irregular. The edges of a mole with Melanoma appear uneven, notched, ragged, and scalloped.
- C stands for Colour: The colour of the mole appears different and uneven, ranging from black, brown, and tan. Sometimes it might also look white, grey, pink, or red.
- D stands for Diameter: The mole growth is larger than 6 millimeters (around ¼ inches).
- E stands for Evolving: Changes in the colour, shape, and size of a mole can be a symptom of Melanoma, and it might also evolve to produce new symptoms like bleeding or itching.
Not all melanomas look like what is described in the “ABCDE” rule. Hence, informing your doctor about skin changes or new mole growths is essential.
Some other symptoms of Melanoma cancer includes, a mole which appears different with uneven colour and with a blurred border, a rash or a sore that is not healing, Itching, pain, and tenderness, redness or swelling on the mole and spreading of the pigment from the mole to the nearby skin.
Causes of Melanoma
Melanoma occurs as a result of the abnormal proliferation of melanocytes. The exact causes of Melanoma are not known. However, certain risk factors are said to be associated with the development of Melanoma. They are:
- Excessive UV (ultraviolet) exposure
- Family history of Melanoma
- Personal melanoma history
- Having fair skin
- History of sunburns
- Presence of unusual moles
- Living near the equator or high elevation region
- Having freckles
- Using tanning beds and sun lamps
- Weak immunity
- Old age
- Having xeroderma pigmentosum
How to Prevent Melanoma
The risk of developing Melanoma can be decreased by following these preventive measures:
- Avoiding sun exposure in the middle of the day
- Wearing sun-protective clothes
- Using sunscreens often throughout the year
- Avoiding the usage of tanning beds and sun lamps
Diagnosis Of Melanoma
Upon noticing skin changes and signs and symptoms of melanoma becoming more prominent, you must get yourself tested. The following tests are performed to diagnose Melanoma:
- Medical history examination
- Physical examination
- Blood tests
- Skin biopsy
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy
- Shave biopsy
- Punch biopsy
- Excisional biopsy
- Incisional biopsy
- Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy
- Lymph node dissection or completion lymphadenectomy
- Testing for gene changes
- Lab tests like Immunohistochemistry (IHC), Comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), Gene expression profiling (GEP)
- Imaging tests like Ultrasound, Computed tomography (CT) scan, Positron emission tomography (PET) scan, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, Chest x-ray
Treatment Of Melanoma
Melanoma treatment is done depending upon the stage of cancer and the overall health of the patient. The treatments used for Melanoma are:
Surgery: The various surgeries performed are melanoma Surgery, metastasectomy, lymphadenectomy, lymph node dissection, and amputation.
Radiation therapy: It is performed by directing a high beam of protons or X-rays on the cancer-affected part.
Chemotherapy: These drugs are used to destroy the abnormally proliferating cancer cells in the body.
Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs are used to improve the fighting mechanism or promote the mechanism of the immune system to fight against cancer.
Targeted therapy: Targeted Therapy drugs used in the treatment of Melanoma identify the cancer cells and stop the growth of cancer cells. It targets the changes in these cancer cells that help them proliferate and spread.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Skin cancers can be prevented by following some preventive measures regularly. Wearing sunblocks or sunscreens and reapplying them every three to four hours, using an umbrella or hat or protective clothing while out in the sun, etc are some easy-to-follow tips that can be practiced daily. Examining the skin regularly at home for changes like discoloration, new mole growth, etc can be made a habit as it is said that “Better safe than sorry.”