Melanoma is the type of skin cancer that people fear the most. While it is true that melanoma is the most serious of all skin cancers due to its ability to metastasize, or spread, it is also important to know that only about four percent of skin cancers are melanoma. Also, the cure rate for some melanomas can be as high as 95 percent, or greater, with appropriate care.
Melanoma skin cancer can develop on any part of the body, including the inside of the mouth, beneath the nails, on genitals, and on the palms or soles of the feet. Most often, however, this type of skin cancer will be seen on sun-exposed areas such as the ears, neck, scalp, legs, back, and buttocks.
Warning signs of melanoma
Often, melanoma will develop in an existing mole that changes as abnormal cells grow. It is estimated that this scenario exists in 20 to 40 percent of melanoma cases. Due to the potential for development in existing moles, it is extremely important to learn how to examine your skin regularly and to complement self-examination with professional skin cancer screenings on a yearly basis.
Detection of melanoma includes what are called the ABCDEs:
- Asymmetry between the two sides of a mole. If you were to fold a mole in half, each side should match.
- Border. An uneven or blurred border could indicate abnormal cell growth.
- Color. Melanoma will typically contain a variety of colors rather than just one. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be seen, as can tinges of red, blue, or white.
- Diameter. Many melanoma skin cancers are larger than a pencil eraser, about 6 millimeters in diameter. It is possible, however, for melanoma to be smaller, which is why other indicators should be watched for.
- Evolving. Changes to a mole or a mole that looks different from others may be a symptom of melanoma.
- Significant itching, pain or bleeding should be discussed with your doctor.
Melanoma treatment available with experienced Manhattan dermatologist
Treatment for melanoma will depend on the size and location of the lesion, as well as the stage of cancer that exists. Most melanoma skin cancers are removed by excision of the growth itself as well as a small amount of surrounding tissue to ensure clear margins. If melanoma is not treated until a more advanced stage, more aggressive treatment may be needed.