Melanoma: Symptoms and Treatments

There are different types of skin cancers, but the most dangerous form is known as melanoma. It develops when un-repaired DNA cause damage to skin cells and trigger mutations which causes the skin cells to multiply very fast and form malignant tumors.

The tumors start in the basal layer of the epidermis where you can find the pigment producing melanocytes. The damage to the skin cells is often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine and tanning beds.  To correct a common misconception, melanoma sometimes comes from moles, but they are not the same thing. Moles are non-cancerous while melanoma is.

Symptoms

The symptoms of melanoma include sores that do not heal, itching, tenderness and pain on the skin, change in size, shape and color of existing moles, or bleeding from an existing mole. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it might not be anything serious but it might be wise to seek a medical opinion as soon as possible.

Treatment:

Melanoma is often detected early because it is usually very visible, but the different treatments depend on the stage of the cancer. The treatments for melanoma includes surgery, immunotherapy, targeted chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

1. Surgery

Surgery is usually the main treatment for melanoma. In the process of surgery, the area is always injected with anesthesia to get it numb and then the tumor is cut with a small amount of skin at the edges, and the wound is stitched back.

Another type of surgery is the Mohs surgery where the skin is removed in thin layers and each layer is looked at with a microscope: if cancer cells are seen the doctor removes another layer of skin. This process continues until a layer shows no cancer cell. Sometimes, amputation is an option but this is only on rare occasions where melanoma has grown deeply on a finger or toe. The affected finger might be partly or completely removed.

2. Immunotherapy

The use of medicine to stimulate a persons immune system so as to recognize and destroy cancer cells effectively is known as immunotherapy. The type of drugs used for immunotherapy include imiquimod cream which is a drug in a cream form that is put on the skin, and stimulates a local immune response against skin cancer cells. Inhibitors are also used as drugs for melanoma.

3. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy makes use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be injected into veins or taken orally as a pill. The drugs attack cancer cells that have spread wider than the skin. Drugs that can be used to cure melanoma include cisplatin, vinblastine, temozolomide, nab- paclitaxel and dacarbazine.

4. Radiation

This method is hardly used for melanoma, it is usually used for the treatment an uncommon melanoma called desmoplastic melanoma. It can be used to treat melanoma that comes back after surgery, in this process radiation from a source outside the body is focused on the cancer cells, the treatment is painless and doesn’t take much time.

5. Targeted therapy

Certain drugs are used when chemotherapy doesn’t work. They have less side effects and they target and attack any quickly dividing cells.

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