Melanoma is a scary and serious type of skin cancer that affects males and females of all ages. Knowing the signs of what to look for can save your life. The dermatologists at Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute are here to help you learn more about melanoma, the cause of melanoma, and different treatment options for it.
There are many different types of skin cancer, but melanoma is the most serious and the deadliest if not treated as soon as possible. Melanoma spreads quickly, so it is important to know the signs to look for to detect it. Melanoma is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. The sun damage from the UV rays damage the DNA of your skin cells causing extreme growth. If you begin tanning or exposing your skin to the sun without protection at an early age, it increases your risk for getting melanoma at a young age.
Melanoma can appear anywhere on your body, including the back, arms, legs, stomach, and scalp, just to name a few. Those more susceptible to melanoma include those with fair skin or a family history of melanoma. Symptoms of melanoma include hardened lumps underneath the skin, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, or fatigue. Additionally, you will want to take notice of any moles you have and keep an eye on them to see if new ones or appear or your current ones change in symmetry, color, or diameter. If you have any of these symptoms or notice changes in a mole, a dermatologist should be consulted as soon as possible to help diagnose and provide treatment options.
A dermatologist will perform a punch biopsy, excisional biopsy, or shave biopsy to diagnose melanoma. A punch biopsy removes just the skin in the concerning area. An excisional biopsy removes the entire growth. A shave biopsy shaves off the entire growth. Once the skin or growths are tested, the dermatologist can determine if you have melanoma. Other tests such as CT scans, X-rays, MRI’s and PET scans will also be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
If you have melanoma, there are different treatment options based on the melanoma's severity and location. The most common treatments are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. All three will help to stop the spread and hopefully remove the melanoma completely. If surgery is performed, they will remove the affected tumors or lymph nodes. Radiation and chemotherapy are best for those whose melanoma has spread and covers a larger area but will be at least a year-long process for treatment to be completely successful, if not longer. There is no guaranteed way to prevent melanoma from developing, but there are preventative measures you can take.
First, wear sunscreen daily and make it part of your morning routine. Wearing sunscreen with an SPF 30+ is a great way to ensure your skin is protected, even on days where you don’t see the sun shining. Second, skip the tanning bed. Using a tanning bed is extremely harmful to your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer.
Even if you don’t think you have melanoma, it is important to get yearly body scans, especially if you think you may be at high risk. If you are in Bloomington, Illinois, or surrounding areas, complete this form to get in touch with a dermatologist at Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute.
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