What is melanoma? Melanoma is a skin disease in which cancer cells are found in the cells that color the skin. It occurs mainly in adults but it does occur in children and adolescents. More women get melanoma than men. It is sometimes called cutaneous melanoma or malignant melanoma. Melanoma is a more serious type of cancer than the more common skins cancers. People most at risk from melanoma include those (1) with a high number of moles, (2) with read or fair hair, blue eyes, fair skin, and freckles, (3) who tan with difficulty and burn in the sun, and (4) with a history of the disease in two or more family members. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and biological therapy can treat melanoma. What are the warning signs of melanoma? Melanoma has five different stages. It is divided into four basic categories: superficial spreading melanoma, lentigo maligna, acral lentiginous melanoma, and nodular melanoma.
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and biological therapy are the four ways to treat melanoma. Surgery is the primary treatment for all stages of melanoma. A doctor can use one of the following operations to get rid of melanoma: (1) conservative re-excision, (2) wide surgical excision, and (3) to take skin from another part of the body and put it where the melanoma was. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill the cancer cell. Chemotherapy is called systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travel through the body and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. When it shows up on your arms and legs, chemotherapy can be used with a technique called isolate arterial perfusion. In this method, chemotherapy drugs are put directly into the bloodstream of the arm of leg when the melanoma is found. Chemotherapy has been found out to not be effective. Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body or from putting materials that produce radiation through plastic tubes in the area where the cancer cells are found. Biological therapy gets your body to fight the cancer itself. It uses materials made by your own body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct, or store your body s natural defenses against disease. The biological treatment is sometimes called biological response modifier therapy or immunotherapy. This treatment had not been found effective in treating melanoma.
There aren t that many warning signs but there are some. The first warning sign is a skin growth that increases in size and looks pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, red, pink, or multicolored. The second warning sign is a mole changes in color or in texture, becomes irregular in shape, gets larger or is bigger that a pencil eraser. The third warning sign is a spot or growth that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed. The fourth warning sign is an open sore that lasts for more than 4 weeks, or heals and then reopens. The fifth warning sign is a scaly or crusty bump that is horny, dry, and rough and may produce a pricking or tender sensation.
Doctors use staging to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. In the first stage of melanoma the cancer is found in the epidermis and the upper part of the dermis. It doesn t spread to nearby lymph nodes. The tumor is less than 1.5 mm thick. The second stage the tumor is 1.5 mm to 4 mm thick. It has spread to the lower part of the dermis. It hasn t spread into the tissue below the skin or into the lymph nodes. The third stage one of the four things can happen (1) the tumor has spread to the body tissue below the skin, (2) tumor becomes bigger than 4 mm thick, (3) additional tumor growths with an inch form the original, and (4) tumor spread to nearby lymph nodes or there additional tumor growths between the original and the lymph nodes area. In the fourth stage the tumor has spread to other organs or to the lymph nodes far away from the original. Some times the melanoma is recurrent. Recurrent means cancer has come back after it has been treated. It can come back in the original site or in another part of the body.
Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type of melanoma. It accounts for about 70 percent of all cases. It travels along the top layer of the skin for a fairly long time before penetrating more deeply. When it first appears it is flat or slightly raised discolored patch that has irregular borders and is somewhat geometrical in form. This type of melanoma is found in the young. It can appear anywhere on the body. Lentigo maligna is similar to the superficial spreading type. It stays close to the skin for a long time. It appears as a flat or mildly elevated mottled tan, brown, or dark brown discoloration. Is found mostly in elderly people. Is the most common form of melanoma in Hawaii. Acral lentiginous melanoma is found mostly in dark-skinned people. Like lentigo maligna it spreads superficially before penetrating more deeply. It appears as a black or brown discoloration under the nails or on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands. Occurs mostly in African Americans and Asians. Nodular melanoma appears invasive at the time it is first diagnosed. It is recognized when it becomes a bump. The color of it is mostly black but occasionally it is blue, gray, white, brown, tan, red or skin tone. Occurs mainly on elderly people. Its frequent locations are the trunk, legs, and arms. This is the most aggressive of all the other melanomas. Found in 10 to 15 percent of cases.
Issue 9, pg.23 (Available Online: EBSCOHOST)
The National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health. What you Need to
Know About Cancer Series: Melanoma. 21 October 1998 (Online)
Skin Cancer Foundation. The Many Faces of Malignant Melanoma. 1993 (Available