Melanoma Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer linked to excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. It is initially noticed through the identification of special mole growths in the skin.

 

Melanoma can spread fairly quickly to other body organs. Due to this, it is crucial to submit yourself to tests if you spot suspicious-looking moles or detect obvious changes in an existing one. Early melanoma detection is key to stopping it from further spreading and damaging your other vital organs.

 

Have your doctor assess your skin and moles to detect any early visible signs of melanoma in your body. You must follow any recommended steps after the consultation so that you will receive proper and prompt treatment according to your detected symptoms.

 

A quick physician consultation just might be the key to potentially saving your life from this cancer.

What Does a Melanoma Look Like?

70% of melanoma cases in the UK are identified as Superficial Spreading Melanoma. This condition is also the most common melanoma type around the world. Affected regions of the body are usually at the legs, back, face, and arms. Rare melanoma types may also affect the soles of the feet, underneath the fingernails, palms of the hands, and the eyes.

 

Mole assessment is usually the first step towards checking for melanoma. The ABCDE checklist is the universal code that represents the following mole characteristics to watch out for:

 

  • Asymmetrical - One side of the mole has a distinguishable different shape than the other.

 

  • Borders – The mole has ragged borders instead of having smooth and identifiable ones.

 

  • Colour – The mole presents with more than one colour. Patches of red, black, and dark brown colours can be seen in a single suspicious-looking mole.

 

  • Diameter – Melanoma-carrying moles are typically more than six milimetres in diameter

 

  • Enlarged – The mole is often raised and covers a larger-than-typical surface area in your skin

 

It’s worth noting that these symptoms do not occur in a specific order and not all need to be present for it to be melanoma.

 

Your safest bet is to consult your physician once you feel suspicions about the moles you see in your skin. Do not delay your doctor appointments in an attempt to observe first what will happen further to your suspicious moles.

 

If your mole starts to crust, itch, bleed, or becomes painful, it’s all the more reason to go see your physician right away.

What Causes Melanoma?

Prolonged sunlight exposure is the leading cause of melanoma. Sunlight contains harmful ultraviolet rays that can be highly damaging to the cells on your skin.

 

Sunlight carries three UV light types: A, B, and C. UV rays A and B are the culprits of skin problems and cancer. Notice how sunscreen lotions are labeled with protection from UVA and UVB rays, which means when you slather it on your body, you’re raising a layer of protection for your skin.

 

Using a sunscreen lotion with a factor high enough to protect from the sun’s rays is crucial. Proper application is equally important. You can increase your risks of having melanoma simply by using an inadequate product or by not applying sun lotion products properly.

Sunburn and Melanoma

Prolonged exposure to sunlight damages the skin’s cells, leading to an uncomfortable and painful sunburn. But more than the pain and uneasiness that sunburn can give, the condition can also seriously raise up your risk of developing melanoma at a later time.

Melanoma causes other than the sun

Sunbeds used to get a tan are as risky and dangerous as prolonged sunlight exposure. The government enforced a 2010 law that prohibits sunbed use for children below 18 years old, in an effort to protect them from increased risks of melanoma.

Who is at most risk of melanoma?

It’s not just spending hours under the sun that puts a person at great risk for melanoma. You are also prone to developing this illness if you have any of the following factors:

 

  • Old age
  • A previous skin cancer diagnosis
  • Plenty of moles scattered in your body
  • Any family member with a history of skin cancer
  • A weakened immune system
  • Blue eye colour
  • Fair-skinned or with freckles
  • Hair with reddish and blonde tones

Other people at risk from Melanoma

Studies have shown that particular ailments have links to melanoma development in terms of symptoms and medication side effects.

 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and sarcoidosis are two such diseases. Persons suffering from these illnesses are more prone to acquiring melanoma as well, according to research.

 

Overweight men also have a tendency to get melanoma, as a few more pieces of research discovered.

What are the Stages of Melanoma?

Melanoma staging is determined by its thickness, extent of skin breakage, and the rate of spreading to other organs (metastasis).

 

Stage 1A

 

Initially, the melanoma hasn’t broken the skin yet. Its thickness is less than 1mm.

 

Stage 1B

 

The melanoma already broke through the skin. Its thickness may still be less than 1mm. Melanoma up to 2mm in thickness can be classified under Stage 1B.

 

Stage 2A

 

This melanoma already broke through the skin and has a thickness from 2mm to 4mm.

 

Stage 2B

 

Melanomas in this stage may be slightly thicker than 4mm and could also be a bit less than that. They already broke through the skin.

 

Stage 2C

 

Melanomas thicker than 4mm and have broken the skin are classified under this stage.

 

Stage 3A

 

The melanoma has already metastasized to a maximum of three lymph nodes. It hasn’t broken the skin though, and they aren’t visibly bigger.

 

Stage 3B

 

There are three conditions classified under stage 3B:

 

  1. The melanoma metastasized to three lymph nodes. It has broken through the skin, though it isn’t visibly big.

 

  1. The melanoma metastasized to three lymph nodes without breaking your skin. They are visibly bigger than before.

 

  1. The melanoma is starting to metastasize to your lymphatic system, even though it hasn’t reached any nodes yet. It may also start spreading across a bigger portion of your skin.

 

Stage 3C

 

Like the previous, Stage 3C has three conditions that a melanoma can fit in:

 

  1. The melanoma already metastasized to your skin, lymphatic channels, and nodes.

 

  1. The melanoma metastasized to four or more lymph nodes. It could have broken the skin or not.

 

  1. The melanoma visibly broke the skin, has grown bigger, and has spread to three lymph nodes.

 

Stage 4

 

This is the last and most advanced stage wherein the melanoma already metastasized from the lymph nodes to other body organs such as the liver, lungs, bones, and brain.

 

Melanoma Treatment

How early you and your doctor caught the melanoma dictates the appropriate treatment that will be given to you. Doctors will perform an assessment of your symptoms first and apply the staging system that was explained earlier to determine how far you are in the disease.

 

Once your doctor senses a potential melanoma, he can perform a biopsy on your suspicious mole to check if it is cancerous or just a benign growth.

 

Now, treatment will again depend on the melanoma stage you are in. Beginning melanoma in the budding periods which haven’t progressed beyond the skin’s surface can still be removed surgically with a local anaesthetic. More serious forms of melanoma will need equally aggressive treatments.

Serious forms of melanoma

Treatment plans used to manage cancer are usually offered to patients with higher stages of melanoma. For instance, stage 4 is the last and most serious form of the disease, and treatment plans for this may already include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

 

Early detection is indeed highly crucial in preventing melanoma from getting worse. That is why you are highly encouraged to consult your doctor if you have concerns about a melanoma possibility.

See a doctor at the push of a button for any potential Melanoma

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