Melanoma occurs in the cells that color the skin. It may appear as a new growth or as a change in the size, shape or color of an existing mole.
Melanoma is the leading cause of skin cancer-related deaths, because it may spread to other areas of the body through the lymph or blood systems. Sixty to seventy percent of melanomas are discovered by the people who have them, so it is important to check the skin for moles that change in shape, size, color, or begin to itch or bleed.
Melanoma often starts as a small, mole-like growth. If you think a mole might be a melanoma, test its ABCDs.
- Asymmetry: One half does not match the other half.
- Border. The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
- Color. The color is not the same all over, but may have differing shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white or blue.
- Diameter. The area is larger than a pencil eraser (or is growing larger).
Risk factors also include being an adult, having a family history, being fair skinned or having sun sensitivity, and having a suppressed immune system.
The incidence of melanoma is rising in the United States but with treatment, 5 percent of early malignant melanoma is curable. When discovered early, melanoma may be treated effectively with surgical removal.
St. Luke’s team works to coordinate the full range of support services, including initial oncology consultations, immunotherapy treatment, surgery services, follow-up care, social services and counseling, nutritional counseling, symptom management, home health care, patient and family education and access to other necessary care.
The number of surgical, radiation and medical treatments for melanoma has greatly increased over the past 10 years. Along with surgery and chemotherapy, treatment options also include:
- Immunotherapy, or biological therapy
- Oncolytic viral therapies
- Ipilimumab (ip-ee-LIM-uh-mab)
- High-dose Interleukin-2 (IL-2)
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SNLB)
- Radiation therapy
- Promising new treatments and clinical trials.
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