Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma is the most invasive and dangerous form of skin cancer. It has the capacity to grow in deep skin tissue and even spread to other areas of the body. It’s no wonder that the mere thought of contracting melanoma is enough to strike fear into the toughest of men. On the plus side, prevention and cure of melanoma is possible when it is detected early, and publicity surrounding the disease has brought the problem to public prominence. Dermatologists have understood potentially fatal melanoma for decades and more than ever, people are making lifestyle changes that reduce the likelihood of contracting melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
Melanoma is a malignant growth that originates in melanocyte cells that are responsible for skin colour. Sometimes called malignant melanoma or cutaneous melanoma, this invasive disease can spread through lymphatic systems or through the bloodstream, making early detection essential for a confident and full recovery. It’s often difficult to appreciate that a simple mole can change in size, shape or colour and become a threat to life itself – but understanding is the first step toward cure.
Apart from unnatural or changing moles, there are other forms a melanoma can take during its development. As melanoma is visible, it’s important to understand particular symptoms that may signal the onset of a malignant growth. Indicators include:
- Changes affecting an existing mole
- The appearance of a new spot or discoloured skin
- A spot that looks similar to an age spot or changing freckle
- Slowly growing skin appearing similar to scar tissue
- Darker skin forming an irregular band/s around fingernails or toenails
- Dark streaks or patches forming under fingernails or toenails which extend to the nail folds
The experts at Pymble Dermatology encourage everyone, regardless of skin colour, to examine their skin on a regular basis. A skin self-exam is useful as patients are likely to understand their own body and any changes that occur. Additionally, a comprehensive full skin examination performed at Pymble Dermatology is the sure-fire means of covering every angle, especially if total body photography is used. The digital monitoring provides immediate and ongoing data related to mole changes or any other unwanted skin growths. It also provides surety regarding the state of healthy moles. The warning signs are sometimes referred to as the ABCDEs of melanoma:
- Asymmetry: The growth displays two distinct halves in colour, shape or texture.
- Border: Irregular and ill-defined borders on a growth.
- Colour: Various colours are evident on the growth, ranging from very light to very dark.
- Diameter: The majority of metastatic melanomas are at least 6mm wide.
- Evolving: Unnatural change in size, colour or shape compared to healthy moles.
Kelly et al have proposed the addition of “EFG” (Elevated, Firm and Growing progressively for more than a month) to the “ABCD” acronym to aid in clinical diagnosis of red amelanotic melanomas. It is important to note that the “ABCD” rule does not appropriately include presentations of red amelanotic melanomas and can be easily misdiagnosed.
As dermatologists are skin experts with specialist qualifications, they achieve the greatest success rates in diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers, including melanoma. A dermatologist should be consulted whenever a growth takes on melanoma characteristics, as correct diagnosis and fast action is essential.
Most of skin growths are harmless. Nevertheless, if there is any concern, your dermatologist will take an excisional biopsy for biopsy to remove the offending mole or pigmented area entirely. Laboratory analysis is the most effective means of ascertaining if the cancer is malignant and aggressive. Lab tests disclose if the cancer remains isolated or is spreading to other areas of the body, facilitating a medical treatment plan outlined according to the stage of melanoma development.
When detected early, abnormal melanoma cells are restricted to the outer layer of skin, although melanoma doesn’t need to go very deep to cause major harm. In fact, at only 4mm deep, melanoma is considered advanced, with the potential to spread to other organs of the body. Surgery is used to remove melanomas during all stages of growth, often followed by a second wide excision surgery to ensure complete removal with adequate margins outlined by the Clinical Practice Guidelines for cutaneous melanoma in Australia.
Medical science is continually evolving, including the development of new treatments for metastatic melanomaswide . The team at Pymble Dermatology embrace developments that cure disease and enhance quality of life, and are on hand to answer any questions regarding melanoma or other skin problems that require attention.