Melanoma Skin Cancer
About Melanoma Skin Cancer Get an overview of melanoma skin cancer and the latest key statistics in the US. Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention Learn about the risk factors for melanoma skin cancer and what you might be able to do to help lower your risk. Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging Know the signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. Find out how melanoma skin cancer is tested for, diagnosed, and staged. Treating Melanoma Skin Cancer If you are facing melanoma skin cancer, we can help you learn about the treatment options and possible side effects, and point you to information and services to help you in your cancer journey. After Treatment Get information about how to live well after melanoma skin cancer treatment and make decisions about next steps. Easy Reading If You Have Melanoma Skin Cancer If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer, this short, simple guide can help.
Melanoma Skin Cancer
Continued Skin Cancer Treatment Skin cancer treatment for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is straightforward. Usually, surgical removal of the lesion is adequate. Malignant melanoma, however, may require several treatment methods — depending on the size of the tumor — including surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy. Because of the complexity of treatment decisions, people with malignant melanoma may benefit from the combined expertise of the dermatologist, a cancer surgeon, and an oncologist. Skin Cancer Care at Home Home treatment is not appropriate for skin cancer. These conditions require the care of a dermatologist or specialist in skin cancers. Be active in preventing and detecting skin cancer on yourself and others. Perform regular self-examinations of your skin and note any changes. Medical Treatment for Skin Cancer Surgical removal is the mainstay of skin cancer treatment for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. For more information, see Surgery. People who cannot undergo surgery may be treated by external radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is the use of a small beam of radiation targeted at the skin lesion. The radiation kills the abnormal cells and destroys the lesion. Radiation therapy can cause irritation or burning of the surrounding normal skin. It can also cause fatigue. These side effects are temporary. In addition, a topical cream has recently been approved for the treatment of certain low-risk nonmelanoma skin cancers. In advanced cases of melanoma, immune therapies, vaccines, or chemotherapy may be used. These treatments are typically offered as clinical trials. Clinical trials are studies of new therapies to see if they can be tolerated and work better than existing therapies. Surgery for Skin Cancer Small skin cancer lesions may be removed through a variety of techniques, including simple excision (cutting it away), electrodesiccation and curettage (scraping the tumor and then burning the tissue with an electric needle), and cryosurgery (freezing the area with liquid nitrogen). Larger tumors, lesions in high-risk locations, recurrent tumors, and lesions in cosmetically sensitive areas are removed by a technique called Mohs micrographic surgery. For this technique, the surgeon carefully removes tissue, layer by layer, until cancer-free tissue is reached. Malignant melanoma is treated more aggressively than just surgical removal. To ensure the complete removal of this dangerous malignancy, 1-3 cm of normal-appearing skin surrounding the tumor is also removed. Depending on the thickness of the melanoma, neighboring lymph nodes may also be removed and tested for cancer. The sentinel lymph node biopsy method uses a mildly radioactive substance to identify which lymph nodes are most likely to be affected.
Melanoma Skin Cancer
You may not have any symptoms in the early stages of melanoma. Or a melanoma may be sore, or it may itch or bleed. Most melanomas start as a new skin growth on unmarked skin. The growth may change color, shape, or size. These types of changes are an early sign that the growth is melanoma. But melanoma can also develop in an existing mole or other mark on the skin. Or it may look like a bruise that isn’t healing or show up as a brown or black streak under a fingernail or toenail. Melanoma can grow anywhere on the body. It most often occurs on the upper back in men and women and on the legs in women. Less often, it can grow in other places, such as on the soles, palms, nail beds, or mucous membranes that line body cavities such as the mouth, the rectum, and the vagina. On older people, the face is the most common place for melanoma to grow. And in older men, the most common sites are the neck, scalp, and ears.1 Signs of melanoma The most important warning sign for melanoma is any change in size, shape, or color of a mole or other skin growth, such as a birthmark. Watch for changes that occur over a period of weeks to a month. The ABCDE system tells you what changes to look for. A is for asymmetry . One half of the mole or skin growth doesn’t match the other half. B is for border irregularity . The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred. C is for color . The color is not the same throughout the mole. D is for diameter . The mole or skin growth is larger than the size of a pencil eraser. E is for evolution . There is a change in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or color of a mole. Melanoma in an existing mole Signs of melanoma in an existing mole include changes in: Elevation, such as thickening or raising of a previously flat mole. Surface, such as scaling, erosion, oozing, bleeding, or crusting. Surrounding skin, such as redness, swelling, or small new patches of color around a larger lesion (satellite pigmentations). Sensation, such as itching, tingling, burning, or pain. Consistency, such as softening or small pieces that break off easily. Many other skin conditions (such as seborrheic keratosis, warts, and basal cell cancer) have features similar to those of melanoma.
Continued Skin Cancer Outlook Although the number of skin cancers in the U.S. continues to rise, more skin cancers are being caught earlier, when they are easier to treat. Thus, illness and death rates have decreased. When treated properly, the cure rate for both basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) approaches 95%. The remaining cancers recur at some point after treatment. Recurrences of these cancers are almost always local (not spread elsewhere in the body), but they often cause significant tissue destruction. 2% of squamous cell carcinomas will eventually spread elsewhere in the body and turn into dangerous cancer. Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is usually seen in people with compromised immune systems. In most cases, the outcome of malignant melanoma depends on the thickness of the tumor at the time of treatment. Thin lesions are almost always cured by simple surgery alone. Thicker tumors, which usually have been present for some time but have gone undetected, may spread to other organs. Surgery removes the tumor and any local spread, but it cannot remove distant metastasis. Other therapies, such as radiation therapy, immunotherapy or chemotherapy, are used to treat the metastatic tumors. Malignant melanoma causes more than 75% of deaths from skin cancer. Almost 76,100 people are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma in the U.S. in 2014, and an estimated 12,000 people will die from some form of skin cancer the same year. Skin Cancer Support Groups and Counseling Living with skin cancer presents many new challenges for you and for your family and friends. You will probably have many worries about how the cancer will affect you and your ability to “live a normal life,” that is, to care for your family and home, to hold your job, and to continue the friendships and activities you enjoy. Many people with a skin cancer diagnosis feel anxious and depressed. Some people feel angry and resentful; others feel helpless and defeated. For most people with skin cancer, talking about their feelings and concerns helps. Your friends and family members can be very supportive. They may be hesitant to offer support until they see how you are coping. Don’t wait for them to bring it up. If you want to talk about your concerns, let them know.
About Melanoma Skin Cancer Get an overview of melanoma skin cancer and the latest key statistics in the US. Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention Learn about the risk factors for melanoma skin cancer and what you might be able to do to help lower your risk. Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging Know the signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. Find out how melanoma skin cancer is tested for, diagnosed, and staged.
Continued After Skin Cancer Treatment Most skin cancer is cured surgically in the dermatologist’s office. Of skin cancers that do recur, most do so within three years. Therefore, follow up with your dermatologist as recommended. Make an appointment immediately if you suspect a problem. If you have advanced malignant melanoma, your oncologist may want to see you every few months. These visits may include total body skin exams, regional lymph node checks, and periodic chest X-rays and body scans. Over time, the intervals between follow-up appointments will increase. Eventually these checks may be done only once a year. Skin Cancer Prevention You can reduce your risk of getting skin cancer by following these guidelines: Limit sun exposure. Attempt to avoid the sun’s intense rays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Apply sunscreen every day. Use a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 both before and every 60 to 80 minutes during sun exposure. Select products that filter both UVA and UVB light. The label will tell you. If you are likely to sunburn, wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants and a wide-brimmed hat. Avoid artificial tanning booths. Conduct monthly self-exams. Skin Self-Exams Monthly skin self-exams improve your chances of finding a skin cancer early, when it has done a minimum of damage to your skin and can be treated easily. Regular self-exams help you recognize any new or changing features. The best time to do a self-exam is right after a shower or bath. Do the self-exam in a bright room; use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. Learn where your moles, birthmarks, and blemishes are, and what they look like. Each time you do a self-exam, check these areas for changes in size, texture, and color, and for ulceration. If you notice any changes, call your primary care provider or dermatologist. Check all areas of your body, including “hard-to-reach” areas. Ask a loved one to help you if there are areas you can’t see. Look in the full-length mirror at your front and your back (use the hand-held mirror to do this). Raise your arms and look at your left and right sides. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your palms, your forearms (front and back), and upper arms. Examine the backs and fronts of your legs. Look at your buttocks (including the area between the buttocks) and your genitals (use the hand-held mirror to make sure you see all skin areas). Sit down and examine your feet carefully, including the soles and between the toes. Look at your scalp, face, and neck. You may use a comb or blow dryer to move your hair while examining your scalp. You may also enlist the help of a friend or family member.