Overview – What is it?
Melanoma cancer is a type of skin cancer that occurs when melanocytes (the pigment cells in the skin) mutate and become cancerous. Melanoma cancer can be more serious than other skin cancers because it tends to spread to other parts of the body causing serious illness and death. The cause of this cancer is not known, however, there are some risk factors that can cause this type of cancer such as intense or intermittent exposure to sunlight, moles, having light or fair skin and family history.
Some of the symptoms for melanoma skin cancer are the presence of a raised dark mole and moles with 3 or more different shades of brown or black. This type of cancer can be prevented by avoiding sunburn, wearing clothes that protect you against the sun and using sunscreen, among other things.
Causes – What causes it?
There is no definite known cause for melanoma skin cancer, however these are some of the risk factors that could lead to this type of cancer:
- Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun and through tanning beds.
- Exposure to radiation which can occur as a result of using x-ray machines, or through radiation treatment for other cancers.
- Exposure to chemicals such as hydrocarbons also increases the risk of getting skin cancer.
- Having certain genetic conditions such as albinism can also increase the risk of melanoma skin cancers.
- Having a weakened immune system due to infections like HIV can increase the risk of getting melanoma skin cancer. Having a low immunity also increases the risk for allergic reactions which can, in turn, lead to skin cancers.
- Having had skin cancer treatment in the past can increase the risk of skin cancer.
- A family history with skin cancer.
- Having had severe burns in the past.
- Having numerous moles.
Symptoms – What do you feel?
The common sign to identify that a person might have melanoma skin cancer is the presence of a normal mole that is an evenly coloured brown, tan or black spot on the skin. If you have a mole, these are some of the things you should look out for:
- A sore that does not heal
- Redness or new swelling beyond the border of the mole
- Change in the surface of the mole which might include oozing, bleeding, scaliness or the appearance of a lump or bump
- Spread or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
- Change in sensation such as itchiness, tenderness or pain
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
Some of the tests that can be used in diagnosing heart conditions are:
- Self-exam: It is important to check yourself often for any changes in your skin and especially on any moles you might have. By doing so, you are more able to detect the cancer at an early stage.
- Biopsy: This procedure enables a doctor to remove the mole and look at it under a microscope to determine whether it is cancerous or not.
- Imaging tests: This can be done using a Computerized tomography (CT),
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-ray or a positron emission tomography (PET) scans which give detailed images of the mole.
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy: This is a test to determine whether the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
The treatment of a heart conditions depends on which condition you have. The treatments include:
- Surgery: This is the main treatment for melanoma skin cancer and is usually followed by other treatments. It involves removing the cancer along with some of the normal surrounding cells. Surgeries for this type of cancer include:
- Simple excision: This surgery is done to remove thin melanomas and the surrounding tissues to check whether the cancer has spread to them as well.
- Mohs surgery: This is done to remove the skin that surrounds the melanoma which is then looked at under a microscope for any abnormal cells. This is done until there are no more abnormal cells present.
- Wide Excision: In this surgery, the skin tumour along with a wide section of normal skin around it is removed. It extends deeper into the skin than simple excision.
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy: This involves removing the first lymph nodes near the tumour to check whether there are any cancer cells present and the doctor is able to determine whether other lymph nodes need to be removed or not.
- Lympadectomy: This is surgery done to remove lymph nodes near the tumour to check whether the cancer has spread to them as well.
Skin graft/skin flap: This is surgery done after the tumour has been removed to improve the appearance of the affected area depending on the scarring.
- Radiation therapy: This is done to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body or where the cancer is reoccurring.
- Chemotherapy: This is the use of anti-cancer drugs to kill the cancer cells when the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment is used to make the body aware of the presence of cancer cells in the body thereby making the body more able to fight the cancer.
- Targeted Therapy: This is the use of drugs to target cancer cells in the body without causing any damage to the normal cells.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
Prevention of heart conditions is based on reducing the risk of getting a heart condition by:
- Avoid exposure to UV rays by:
- Using sunscreen
- Wearing clothes that protect against the sun such as long-sleeved clothes which protect the body including the hands from direct sunlight
- Wearing sunglasses
- Keeping infants away from direct sunlight
- Avoid using tanning beds and tanning pills
- Performing regular self-exams to detect any abnormalities on the skin