According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is a less common but aggressive type of skin cancer that develops in the skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce a pigment known as melanin that gives color to skin and hair. This pigmentation protects the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. The lack of melanin pigmentation may make people at higher risk for melanoma. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body. The most common areas where melanoma occurs are the chest and back region in men and legs in women. Most often, melanoma develops in the skin, which is called cutaneous melanoma. Rarely, melanoma may occur in the mucous membrane that lines lips, vagina, eyes, and gastrointestinal tract.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the different types of melanoma are as follows:
Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type of melanoma, accounting for roughly 70% of all cases. It slowly grows horizontally on the skin for years before becoming invasive.
Nodular melanoma accounts for approximately 15% of all melanomas and can quickly invade the deeper layers of the skin and nearby structures.
It most commonly affects people with dark skin. It is an aggressive tumor that rapidly progresses from horizontal growth to vertical growth and becomes invasive.
Lentigo maligna melanoma is a slow-growing type of melanoma that often occurs in the face, neck, legs, arms, and other skin areas exposed to the sun.
Amelanotic melanoma is rare and often difficult to diagnose because of the absence of pigmentation. The peculiar traits of amelanotic melanoma include changes in size, symmetry, and borders of the mole.
It is an uncommon and aggressive melanoma that most often occurs in the head and neck region of elderly patients.
Melanoma can appear as a new unusual-looking mole or in the preexisting mole. The early warning signs of melanoma are the change in color, size, shape, and texture of a preexisting mole.
As per the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the "ABCDE" rule helps to identify signs and symptoms of melanoma.
The treatment options depend on the type and stage of malignant melanoma and the overall health of the patient.
Surgery is considered as primary treatment for malignant melanoma. Oncologists surgically remove the tumor, affected lymph nodes, and some surrounding healthy tissue. The extent of surgical removal depends on the size and spread of the cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to destroy cancerous cells to treat melanoma. It may be used after the surgical removal of the tumor to eliminate any leftover microscopic cancer cells. Radiation can be delivered via an external machine outside the body, called external beam radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs injected intravenously or orally, which enter the bloodstream and reach and destroy rapidly growing cancer cells.
Targeted drug therapy explicitly targets specific cell proteins or genes that block the growth and spread of cancer. It causes fewer side effects and spares healthy cells because of its specific action.
Immunotherapy treatment, also called biologic therapy, uses a specific protein to enhance the patient's immune system cells' ability to target and destroy cancer cells.
The following tests and procedures may be recommended, depending on the symptoms of melanoma, age, and general health of the patient:
A biopsy provides a definitive diagnosis of cancer. The procedure involves the removal of a tissue sample for microscopic examination. Anesthesia is administered before the procedure to prevent pain. A biopsy can be performed via surgical removal of a part (incisional biopsy) or an entire tumor (excisional biopsy), which is later examined microscopically to detect the presence of cancerous cells.
Imaging tests are primarily used to check for possible metastasis of melanoma to other organs. High-intensity radiation is used to produce detailed 3-dimensional computerized images. Various imaging tests used are:
The cancer specialists at ACTC in Florida offer outstanding patient care by prescribing personalized and evidence-based treatment plans tailored to individual patients' needs. We aim to foster a positive environment that focuses on physical and mental health throughout a cancer patient's journey.
The following are our providers who you can consult at ACTC:
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with melanoma, a detailed discussion with your primary physician will help you understand your condition better. Your primary care doctor can then refer you to an advanced specialty center, such as ACTC in Florida.
As one of Florida's best cancer centers, we understand how a cancer diagnosis and therapy impact a person's physical and emotional well-being. Therefore, we work hard to make patients and their families feel secure. We understand how imperative it is for you and your loved one to make informed choices and play an active part in your medical care. We at ACTC strive to support you at every step of diagnosis, staging, treatment, and long-term follow-up in one convenient location. Our cancer specialists are backed up by qualified clinical staff with over two decades of experience and a reputation for providing personalized melanoma treatment.
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As per the American Society of Clinical Oncology, melanoma is the fifth most common form of cancer in both men and women. Older people are more likely to develop melanoma than young people.
Various factors that increase the risk of melanoma include excessive exposure to sunlight, genetic factors, previous history of cancer, and a weakened immune system.
There is no specific measure to prevent melanoma. However, limiting/avoiding sun exposure at peak hours, wearing sun-protective clothing and eyeglasses, and using sunscreen with a minimum of 15 SPF may reduce the risk of melanoma disease.
According to research, 8% of melanoma patients may develop another malignancy. Lymphoma was found to be the most common cancer that developed in melanoma patients.
Melanoma can metastasize and spread to other body parts, including the brain, liver, bones, lungs, lymph nodes, and stomach.
The prognosis (chances of recovery) of melanoma depends on many factors. Melanoma with less than 1 mm of thickness has a better prognosis than thicker tumors. Melanomas on extremities like arms and legs have a better chance of recovery than melanomas on the central part of the body, such as the trunk, head, and neck. However, chances of recovery also depend on the type and stage of melanoma, the patient's general health and age, or if cancer has recurred.