Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer that develops in the cell which produces melanin – the pigment that gives your skin its colour. Melanoma can also develop in the eyes and rarely inside the body such as the nose or throat.
Research suggests that the risk of melanoma increases in people under 40, especially women. Knowing the warning signs and symptoms of skin melanoma can help ensure that the cancerous changes are detected and treated before cancer has spread.
There are four types of melanoma that include the following:-
- Superficial spreading melanoma: This is the most common type of melanoma that often appears on the trunk or limbs.
- Nodular melanoma: This is the second most common type of melanoma that appears in the trunk, head, or neck.
- Lentigo maligna melanoma: This is a less common type of melanoma that develops in older adults, especially in the body parts which was had excessive sun exposure.
- Acral lentiginous melanoma: This is the rarest kind of melanoma that appears on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or under nails.
Melanoma can be difficult to detect in its early stages. Therefore, it is important to check the skin for any signs of change. Any change in the skin such as a new spot or mole or a change in the colour, shape, or size of an existing spot or mole can be symptoms of melanoma.
The symptoms of melanoma may also include:-
- A skin sore that doesn’t heal
- Painful, itchy or tender spot or sore
- Spot or sore that bleeds
- Spot or lump that looks shiny, waxy, smooth, or pale
- A firm, red lump that bleeds or looks ulcerated or crusty
- A flat or red spot that is rough, dry, or scaly
Melanoma develops when skin cells (melanocytes) mutate and begin to grow out of control. Unlike more common skin cancers, melanoma can occur in the body parts that are normally not exposed to the sun, such as the groin or armpits.
While the exact cause of melanoma may not be known, several factors increase the risk of developing this disease.
Following are the factors that may increase the risk of melanoma:
- Fair skin
- A history of sunburn
- Excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- Living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation
- Having many moles or unusual moles
- A family history of melanoma
- Weakened immune system
You can reduce the risk of developing melanoma by:
- Avoiding the sun during the middle of the day
- Wearing sunscreen year-round
- Wearing protective clothing
- Avoiding tanning lamps and beds
- Becoming familiar with your skin so that you notice the changes that occur
The doctor performs several tests to stage melanoma. This may include the following:
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
- Computed Tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan
- Blood tests
The treatment of melanoma is determined by its stage and the overall general health of the patient. Usually, surgery is the main treatment for melanoma during which the surgeon cuts out cancer and some of the normal skin surrounding it. Treatments for melanoma may include the following:
- Melanoma Surgery
- Targeted Cancer Therapy
- Radiation Therapy