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Melanoma Treatment on the Gulf Coast

Melanoma is one of the most common skin cancers and affects the cells that produce human skin pigment. Usually caused through long exposure to sunlight, melanoma can turn into serious cancer if it is allowed to spread.

Risks & Symptoms

Melanin is the skin pigment that creates color in the skin and protects the skin from UV rays and other environmental factors. Melanoma occurs when melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin become cancerous and begin dividing uncontrollably. Usually, melanoma is characterized by a mole that grows suddenly, changes color or begins to itch or bleed. Sudden changes in skin color or the texture of the skin can also point to the development of cancer. If this occurs, speak to your doctor.

Although it is unclear what exactly causes melanoma, individuals who are exposed unprotected to sunlight and UV rays for long periods are at a much greater risk of developing melanoma. Those who have weakened immune systems or who have a greater amount of moles are at greater risk. Lighter-skinned individuals are also more susceptible to the development of melanoma than darker-skinned individuals because the presence of greater amounts of melatonin in the skin seems to have a protective effect. Individuals with fairer skin should wear sunscreen and get regular screenings. This is especially important as patients age.

Diagnosis & Staging

To diagnose melanoma, a biopsy will be required. Usually, melanoma will be a brown or black color where the cancer is developing and most often occurs on the skin. However, the back of the eye or the nails and soles of the feet have also been known to develop melanoma. Melanoma may look just like a spot or develop into a lesion.

To determine whether the lesion is cancerous, it is removed and then tested. The dangerousness of melanoma is dependent on how deep cancer has invaded the skin. Your doctor will determine this using two systems developed by Breslow and Clark. Breslow looked at how far cancer had invaded the skin by millimeters and Clarke tried to determine which levels of the skin had been infected. Based on these results your doctor will develop a proper treatment plan.

A biopsy is usually enough to determine the presence of melanoma. However, if cancer has spread deeply into the skin, your doctor may recommend an X-ray or PET scan to determine the extent of the metastasis. When melanoma spreads beyond the skin, it usually spreads through the lymph node system. So, your doctor may recommend a sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Treatment Options

Treatments for melanoma include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. However, surgery is the most common option. Usually, the melanoma is removed through an incision that is less than a millimeter thick. If the cancer has spread, immunotherapy, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be used to treat it. Chemotherapy use has increased in recent years as doctors have been able to target chemotherapy only towards those cells that have melanoma DNA mutations present in their gene pool. Immunotherapy is also being used more frequently to treat melanoma. If your doctor determines that you are a good candidate, one of two drugs will be administered to you to see if your immune system can be triggered to fight melanoma.

Call (251) 435-2273 today to speak with one of our experts about your treatment options.

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