Melanoma is a serious kind of skin cancer developing in melanocytes. This type of cancer can spread to other parts of the body, especially to the nose to throat. The cause of melanomas is still unclear. However, ultraviolet radiation (UV) is considered as a factor that may increase the risk of melanoma.
Melanoma can progress in any area of the body especially that is exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, back and legs. People with darker skin may more commonly have hidden melanoma, a type of melanoma that occurs in the areas that are not exposed to the sun, such as palms, feet and fingernails beds.
People with melanoma may firstly experience a change in an existing mole or the development of new pigment or abnormal growth on the skin. You may raise your awareness of melanoma if your mole:
- has irregular shapes.
- has an irregular border.
- changes its color.
- is a new growth and larger than six millimeters.
- changes over time.
- develops new symptoms, such as bleeding or itchiness.
Melanoma can occur anywhere in your body either it is exposed to the sun or not, such as
under a nail
in the mouth
in the digestive tract
in the urinary track
in the vagina
- in the eye
When to see a doctor
You are advised to see a doctor if you notice any changes on your skin.
Melanoma is a result of abnormal production of melanocytes that produce skin color. DNA damage causes the new cells to grow uncontrollably and disorderly. Due to this condition, a mass of cancerous cells develops.
However, the exact cause why this condition happens is still unclear. Apart from genetic factors, environment and exposure to ultraviolet are considered as possible factors that increase the risk of melanoma.
Other factors that may increase the risk of melanoma may include:
- fair skin
- a history of sunburn
- exposure to ultraviolet (UV)
- the equator area or higher elevation
- moles or unusual moles
- a family history of melanoma
- debilitated immune system
To diagnose melanoma, the doctor will conduct some physical exam and may require a biopsy by removing a sample of tissue for testing.
To determine the extent or the stage of the melanoma, the doctor will:
determine the thickness of a melanoma
observe the spread of melanoma to the lymph nodes
seek for signs of cancer in other parts of the body
Treatment for melanoma depends on its size and stage. The doctor may recommend removal surgery to people with small melanomas. The surgery may be the only treatment needed for people with early-stage melanomas.
For people with melanomas that have spread to other parts of the body, the treatment may include:
- A removal surgery of affected lymph nodes
- Targeted therapy
- Radiation therapy
Preparing for an appointment
Before your appointment, you are advised to be aware of restrictions prior to the appointment and you may prepare some information including:
- your experienced symptoms
- your key personal information
- all medications you are taking
- questions that you want to ask the doctor