Being diagnosed with Melanoma will change your life!



According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer deaths of young women between the ages of 24-29

This increase in diagnosis is growing faster than any other cancer in the Unites States.

While it still only accounts for about 4% of all skin cancer diagnoses-

One person dies from malignant skin cancer every hour.

In general, skin cancer has been thought of as an "old person's" disease, but more and more young people are being diagnosed and are dying from it than ever before. This is very alarming! The good news is with early detection and treatment - Melanoma is almost always curable in its early stages.

I am not as familiar with malignant melanoma as with non-melanoma skin cancers. However, I do know one survivor of melanoma skin cancer and thankfully, she has been cancer free for over 14 years.

This is one of the main reasons for this site. If I can get one man, woman or teenager,(and if you have one, you know they are in a class all by themselves), to understand the warning signs of skin cancer and learn to protect their skin, we can change the course of the increasing statistics on skin cancer upside down.



I may get a bit more technical in this section as it is difficult to describe certain subject matters without some medical jargon.

Melanoma has its beginnings in melanocytes

  • Melanocytes are the cells that produce the dark protective pigment called melanin.
  • Melanin is what gives the skin its color when exposed to the sun and protects it from sun damage.
  • Darker skin has more melanin and more protection
  • Melanocytes often cluster together and form moles (nevi)
  • Most moles are benign, but some may go on to become malignant skin cancer

Melanoma starts in these melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin and gives you a tan when you are out in the sun.

Initially this cancer spreads along the top layer of your skin. This is called the "horizontal growth stage" and can last from a few months to a few years.

Eventually melanoma will penetrate the skin and begin the "vertical growth stage". During this stage, the cancer goes deeper where it can get into the lymph nodes and blood stream. This is the phase when cancer can metastasize (spread) to other parts of body.

Stop it before it gets here.



Warning signs and what to look for:

With early detection and proper treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is around 95%. However, after the cancer starts to "spread" the survival rates begin to decline.


With early detection and proper treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is around 95%. However, after the cancer starts to "spread" the survival rates decline.

Everyone, not only those with a family history or increased risk for skin cancer should perform regular self exams. Research has proven that these self exams save lives, because with early detection most skin cancers can be treated successfully.

You should become familiar with your birthmarks, blemishes and moles so you know what they look like and can spot any changes in them. Most people have moles, and almost all moles are harmless. But it's important to recognize any changes in a mole that might suggest a normal mole is becoming a problem.


The possible signs and symptoms of melanoma are best described by the ABDCE rule. The ABCDE rule can help distinguish a normal mole from an abnormal mole. If you find a mole that has any of these traits, it should be checked by your doctor.

ABCDE RULE

  • A - Asymmetry One half is different than the other half.
  • B - Border Irregularity The edges are notched, uneven, or blurred
  • C - Color The color is uneven. Shades of brown, tan, and black are present.
  • D - Diameter Diameter is greater than 6 millimeters
  • E - Elevation/Elevation Means the mole is raised and has an uneven surface.

Other warning signs:

• Appearance of a new bump or nodule

• Color spreads into surrounding skin

• Redness or swelling beyond the mole

• Pain

• Tenderness

• Itching

• Bleeding

• Oozing

• Scaly appearance

If you recognize any of these signs on your body, see a health care professional immediately.

Catching skin cancer early will decrease the mortality rate.

Early childhood exposure to severe sunburn blisters increases one's risk later in life to developing malignant melanoma. Having a fair complexion, family history and age also increases your risk.



There are four basic types of Melanoma. The first three begin and are confined to the surface of the skin and these are called situ. The fourth type is called nodular melanoma and is the most aggressive, invasive and deadly.


Diagnosis

A biopsy is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis. A Pathologist will examine the tissue and determine if cancer is present, and/or if it has spread. If the cancer has spread beyond the borders of the mole/legion, then cancer is present in your body. At this point your doctor will determine what stage the cancer is in before moving forward.

Simply staging is based on:

  • How far the disease has spread (metastisized) from the original site
  • If the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes or to any other vital organs
  • How thick the tumor is and how deeply it has penetrated into the skin

The staging system provides a standard way of summarizing how far a cancer has spread. This helps your doctor plan appropriate treatment and determine your outlook. Doctors use a number staging system that is common to all skin cancers. They put together all your information to give a number stage of 0 to 4. to your cancer. The lower the number, the earlier the cancer has been diagnosed.

The stages of skin cancer are:

  • Stage 0 (also called carcinoma in situ) - the cancer is only in the top layer of skin (the epidermis)
  • Stage 1 - the cancer is less than 2cm across and has not spread
  • Stage 2 - the cancer is more than 2cm across and has not spread
  • Stage 3 - the cancer has spread to the tissues under the skin and possibly to nearby lymph nodes
  • Stage 4 - the cancer has spread to another part of the body


Staging is a very complicated and no way near my area of expertise. For more information about staging of skin cancers.



How is skin cancer treated?

First off, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Melanoma, take a deep breath, relax and realize most patients live long and productive lives. It is not a death sentence.

However, you and your doctor will become very close as you determine your course of treatment. Understandably, some are more invasive and unpleasant than others, but most of them are relatively easy to handle.

Over 95 percent of all melanoma skin cancer cases are treated surgically. During surgery, your doctor will remove the tumor along with the surrounding skin in order to lower the risk of a recurrence. This may be as simple as removing a suspicious mole for biopsy, or as complex as the removal of local lymph nodes.

Depending on the outcome of your biopsy, you may be sent to a medical oncologist. An oncologist is a doctor specializing in the treatment of cancer. You and your oncologist will work together to determine the best course of action for your case.

For most later-stage melanomas other treatments besides surgery may be needed. These are called adjuvant treatments.

Adjuvant Therapy is a form of therapy given when there is no clear evidence of a tumor, but it is reasonable to assume that cancer cells are present somewhere in your body.

Adjuvant Therapy may take the form of:

* immunotherapy * chemotherapy * radiation therapy


For more thorough descriptions of treatment options, visit our guide to treating skin cancer.


Skin cancer is more prevalent in the world today than ever before, and therefore is an issue that everyone should become more aware of. Information on skin cancer teaches us the many different signs and symptoms to look for. We know that moles are also often a sign of this cancer, but it is important to remember, that just because you may notice any symptoms, it does not mean that you have cancer. So before you jump to any conclusions, speak to your doctor to find out what is really going on. If you do in fact have skin cancer, then you will be able to get proper treatment.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent yourself from developing skin cancer, but staying out of the sun or at least using proper sun protection when you do, are a few preventive measures you can take to stay healthy.



Any information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure skin cancer. This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace proper medical care. Always seek the advice of a trained health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before seeking any treatment. Proper medical attention should always be sought for specific ailments. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking medical treatment due to information obtained on sun-protection-and-products-guide.com.




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