Melanoma can be very serious and it causes the maximum number of deaths among skin cancer patients. This type of skin cancer usually occurs due to skin cell damage when the person is overexposed to UV rays. It begins like a mole and the worst thing about this cancer is that it spreads in the body and can lead to fatal consequences. However, when it is identified in the early stages, it can be cured with proper treatment. In our body, melanocytes produce pigmentation and they maintain the colour of the skin. In some cases, they become mutate and turn into cancerous cells leading to the condition of Melanoma. In rare cases, it can occur even in the eyes and the intestine even though it mostly affects the skin.
Types of Melanoma
– Superficial Spreading Melanoma : This usually appears on the limbs and it also happens to be the most common type of melanoma that affects people. In the initial stages, the growth of the cancerous cells will be slow but they soon pick up the pace to spread across the skin surface. As soon as symptoms are noticed, you should rush to your doctor and begin the treatment.
– Nodular Melanoma : It can appear on the head and neck region along with the trunk in some cases. It is also the very common type of Melanoma condition and it grows rather quickly unlike the superficial Melanoma. The unusual thing about this type of cancer is that the affected area turns red unlike the regular black spot associated with Melanoma condition.
– Lentigo Maligna Melanoma : This is rather a rare condition and it happens due to overexposure of the body to the sun. When the exposure is continued for many years, certain parts of the body may develop this condition that appears like a simple stain on the surface of the skin. It is usually not so dangerous like the other types and it also grows at a slow pace when compared to other forms of skin cancer.
– Acral Lentiginous Melanoma : This type of skin cancer affects the palms and soles and in some cases, it can even be formed under the nails. It is a very rare condition and it is usually not associated with the skin exposure to sun rays.
Symptoms of Melanoma
– The symptoms of Melanoma are clearly visible in most cases and you need to carefully identify them with the help of your doctor. It mostly appears in areas where sun exposure is more even though it can occur in areas where sun exposure is not too much.
– It can develop around an existing mole and there will be a sudden change in the new pigment around the mole. However, it can also develop in other areas of the skin where there is no mole.
– You need to watch out for the symptoms of unusual moles when it comes to identifying Melanoma. When moles are asymmetrical or have irregular borders, you should not take them lightly as they can be visible symptoms of Melanoma.
– Also when there is a mole that does not have a uniform colour, you should be worried about it and look for the size of the mole. If you believe that it is growing in size and changing its shape over a period of time, you should get in touch with your doctor to get diagnosed with Melanoma.
– In rare cases, Melanoma can even occur in hidden areas like under the nail or the soles. This can be slightly difficult to identify and you need to get a proper diagnosis to identify cancer. Apart from these places, melanoma can even occur in the mouth or the intestine and eyes in very rare cases.
Causes of Melanoma
– This condition occurs when melanocytes in the body behave abnormally and become cancerous. It is not clearly known why this happens but most of the cases are linked to overexposure to UV rays.
– In some cases, genetic factors may also play a contributing role and lead to DNA damage of the melanin-producing cells.
– People having more number of moles in the body with pale skin are more likely to develop such condition in future. Apart from that, age also plays a crucial role and the chances of getting Melanoma increases with age.
– In some cases, an organ transplant surgery can also lead to developing this condition.
– In this situation, it is important to be careful when you have to stay outdoors for long hours and cover yourself properly. This reduces your chances of getting skin cancer in the future.
Diagnosis of Melanoma
– Physical examination : The diagnosis of Melanoma begins with a complete body examination and this should help your doctor to identify any symptoms in the early stages. Even you can contribute to this process and examine your body carefully at home once in a while to check for any symptoms of Melanoma. If you notice any abnormal growth of moles or other issues with your skin, you can intimate your doctor about the same and get a thorough examination. When anything suspicious is found in this step, your doctor will suggest you undergo further tests to confirm the presence of cancer cells in the body.
– Biopsy : This is the best way to determine the presence of cancerous cells in the body and doctors may remove a portion of the affected area and perform a medical examination of the sample. In some cases, the entire mole along with the normal skin is removed to check for inconsistency and this will help them to identify cancer. Once they get the sample tested in the lab, they will be able to determine the thickness of the melanoma and see how much it has spread in the skin. This gives a clear idea about the stage of cancer and further treatment can be planned based on the results of this diagnosis.
Prevention of Melanoma
– Check your body : This is probably the simplest thing you can do to prevent melanoma in the future. All you need to do is to check your body thoroughly once in a while at your home for any symptoms of melanoma. If you observe carefully, you will notice any abnormal growth of moles or other patches in your skin. This can indicate the symptoms of cancer and you should get in touch with your doctor for further diagnosis.
– Strictly avoid tanning beds : Some people are crazy about getting tan and this can increase your chances of getting skin cancer. Especially using tanning beds or tanning lamps prove to be more harmful than exposure to sunlight. This can also cause other varieties of cancer apart from Melanoma.
– Avoid overexposure to Sun : This is the best thing you can do for the prevention of Melanoma and you can stay indoors when the sun rays are at its peak during the afternoon period. While it is good to get some sunlight early in the morning, the same sunlight can damage your skin during afternoon exposure. If you want to move outdoors, avoid the hot days as your skin can get damaged due to the harsh UV rays on these days.
– Wear full body clothing : If there is no other option but to remain outdoors for an extended period of time, you should make sure that you wear full body clothing so that you can minimize the skin exposure by a huge margin. If you have fewer hairs on your head, make sure you wear a cap. Wearing full sleeves and covering your legs completely during outdoor activities will drastically reduce your chances of getting skin cancer due to UV exposure.
– Use sunscreen : along with the above-mentioned precautions, you can also choose to use UV protection sunscreens when you are moving outdoors. This can give you good protection for many hours and you will be easily preventing skin damage due to the harsh UV rays.
– The stage of cancer determines which method is adopted to treat Melanoma. If the cancer is still in the early stages, removing the affected skin layer will be enough and there is no need for further treatment. However, when cancer has spread to other layer and affected the lymph nodes, further treatment will be necessary.
– At this stage, surgery is the best treatment for Melanoma and the affected area along with the skin from the surrounding area is removed to prevent any chances of cancer spreading in the future. This should be more than enough to remove the cancer cells from the body. However, to be sure about the process, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be used in some cases.
– In chemotherapy, drugs are used to kill the remaining cancer cells in the body and this can either be provided to the whole body or only to the specific region that is affected depending on the severity of cancer. In some cases, oral drugs are used and in other cases, it can also be given intra veins for better results.
– Along with this, high energy X rays are used to kill the cancer cells in some cases. This will prevent cancer from spreading into nearby regions and it can target the area in a better way than other drugs.
– Apart from these treatments, the immunity of the patient is boosted by giving certain medication and this will help them to fight the cancer cells in a natural way. This will also help them to sustain the harsh therapies and maintain the overall health condition in good order.
Complications of Melanoma
– Depending on the stage of cancer, people face various complications out of Melanoma. In most cases, you will notice that scarring is the biggest complication of Melanoma.
– This can also cause pain in some people and some medication is needed to reduce the pain.
– When the lymph nodes are removed to treat Melanoma, it can affect the normal functioning of the lymphatic system in the body and lead to the accumulation of fluids in the limbs. In this situation, further medication is needed to treat the issue even though this does not cause any fatal consequences.
– The radiation therapy and chemotherapy sessions can be very tiring and many patients notice long-term side effects from such treatments. However, they can be handled with medication and it becomes easy to handle them in the long run with such treatment.
Myth #1. Melanoma is not fatal :
This is not true at all and many people die due to this condition. Remember that as long as the Melanoma is just on the surface of the skin, it can be easily treated and it does not cause many complications. However, once it spreads to the lymph nodes, it can become dangerous and even lead to fatal consequences.
Myth #2. No risk without sun exposure :
Many people think that Melanoma is caused only due to overexposure to the sun and they will not get skin cancer when their exposure is limited. However, few people get skin cancer even when they have minimal exposure to sunlight.
Myth #3. Melanoma only affects white skin :
While it is true that a majority of cases are those with white skin, there is no rule that it cannot affect people with black skin. It can affect anyone when the skin exposure to sunlight is more and when genetic factors are combined along with these issues.
If you notice any abnormal moles in your body or drastic changes in your existing moles, you should not take them lightly and immediately seek medical treatment. Your doctor will carefully analyze the skin and diagnose the cancer cells in the body. If you are tested positive, you need not worry as treatment is readily available for early stages and many people get cured and lead a normal life without any hassles. On the other hand, when it has spread to the lymph nodes, treating melanoma becomes complicated and it can even be fatal in this situation. For this reason, you should avoid overexposure to outdoor environments and use proper precautions whenever you need to be outdoors for long hours.