How To Tell If Melanoma Has Spread – Regular self-exams will lead you to suspicious spots on your body — and no doubt ask you to see a dermatologist for an exam.
Melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – is rare, but the number of cases is still a cause for concern. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 87,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year and nearly 10,000 die from the disease. Regular self-checks will help you spot signs of skin cancer at an early stage and avoid serious consequences.
How To Tell If Melanoma Has Spread
Arash Akhavan, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai, says melanoma is particularly deadly because it can quickly spread to other organs, such as the lungs and liver. “But the disease has a five-year survival rate of 99 percent if it’s noticed and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes,” he adds. “Two other potentially serious forms of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma — have nearly 95 percent cure rates when treated early.”
Skin Cancer: Everyone’s At Risk
People who have survived one melanoma are about nine times as likely as the general population to get a second, and this risk persists for years after their initial melanoma diagnosis. But a simple skin check can provide prompt treatment if melanoma returns, according to researchers writing in the April issue of the
Dr. Akhavan agrees. “Skin cancer is not hidden deep in the body. We don’t need imaging tests to detect it,” he says. “It is visible on the skin and can be detected with the naked eye.”
The study analyzed data from 581 people with early-stage melanoma and at least one year of follow-up. Of these, 171 developed a recurrence, with 40 percent of these new melanomas being noticed by patients. Doctors identified 30 percent of recurrent melanomas and 26 percent were detected with imaging scans.
, Feb. 23) suggests that if whole-body skin cancer screenings became part of routine annual primary care visits, significantly more skin cancers would be detected — and at earlier stages. In the study, the melanomas detected in screened patients were thinner than those of the unscreened patients. “Melanoma thickness is an important predictor of mortality risk in patients,” notes Dr. Akhavan on. “The thinner the cancer, the more likely it can be completely removed and the less likely it has spread.”
Know Early Melanoma Symptoms
Dr. Akhavan says it’s a good idea to schedule a yearly body check with a dermatologist (take one every six months if you’re at high risk) and do a monthly head-to-toe self-check at home.
Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each month for your self-check and perform it in front of a full-length mirror in good light. Check every part of your skin, including your scalp, under your breasts, finger and toenails, soles of your feet, and between your toes. Use a handheld mirror to check your back and genitals.
When spending time in the sun, always use sunscreen to protect exposed skin. Up to 40 percent of Americans skip this basic preventative measure. However, it is essential to use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and preferably 30 and
Dr. Akhavan recommends using at least an ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) to cover any exposed skin, including your ears, lips, the back of your neck, and your scalp if your hair is thinning. “Apply the sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure so it has time to get active before going outside,” he advises. “Seeking shade during the sunniest hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and wearing protective clothing, are other essential components of an effective sun protection regime.”
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Melanoma is a type of skin cancer most often seen in adults. Although rare, melanoma affects approximately 300-400 children and adolescents in the United States each year. Melanomas can develop on any part of the skin. They can also occur in the eye. If left untreated, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma Is Curable
In melanoma, cancer forms in skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce melanin that gives color (pigment) to the skin.
Melanin is a pigment produced by certain skin cells called melanocytes. Melanin helps protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Dark-skinned people have more melanin and are less likely to develop melanoma.
Although usually considered a disease in adults, melanoma is responsible for about 1% of cancers in children under the age of 15. It is more common in older age groups, accounting for 7% of cancers in adolescents aged 15-19 years.
Symptoms of melanoma include unusual skin changes, such as a mole that enlarges, changes color, bleeding, or itching. Melanomas can also appear as a pale or red-colored bump.
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Treatment for melanoma depends on the stage of the disease. Usually, melanoma patients are treated with surgery to remove the cancer. More severe disease may require additional treatment, including targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and/or immunotherapy.
If detected early, melanoma survival rates are very good. However, melanoma can spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat. For this reason, awareness and early detection of melanoma is very important.
Certain factors increase the risk of melanoma. These include fair skin that burns easily, certain skin conditions, a family history of melanoma and/or unusual moles, and a history of sun exposure or sunburn. Melanoma is more common in adolescents.
Melanoma is classified as stage I or II (melanoma in the skin only), stage III (melanoma has spread to lymph nodes), or stage IV (metastatic melanoma).
What To Know About Skin Cancer & Skin Checks
Melanoma has spread to other parts of the body, including the lungs, liver, brain, bones, soft tissue, or remote areas of the skin
In general, the stage of the disease is the most important factor for the prognosis. Patients with localized melanoma that has not spread have an excellent prognosis with survival rates exceeding 90%. However, patients with a distant spread of the disease are more difficult to treat.
Treatment for melanoma depends on the location of the melanoma, characteristics of the tumor (gene changes and histology), and the stage of the disease.
Melanoma survivors are at a higher risk of recurrence. Melanoma survivors should be examined regularly by a dermatologist at least every 6 months. Survivors should check their skin regularly and see a doctor at any sign of change. Here are some easy ways to help prevent melanoma:
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For overall health and disease prevention, all cancer survivors should adopt healthy lifestyles and eating habits, as well as regular physical checkups and screenings by a primary care physician, at least annually.
Childhood cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy or radiation should be monitored for acute and late effects of the therapy. Most people wouldn’t really think of melanoma on the feet and legs, but they are there, especially if the skin has been exposed to the sun’s rays.
Suzanne and Lindsey are trained in the use of a dermatoscope in the clinic as they see a lot of feet and legs on a daily basis and are best placed to observe, document and photograph anything unusual seen in the clinic. The results are recorded in medical notes, which can then be sent to the GP for further referral to dermatology for further investigation.
A dermatoscope is a hand-held device that magnifies and illuminates any lesion on the skin that may require further examination (see main image above).
Clinical Images Of Types Of Melanoma. A Superficial Spreading Melanoma….
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that begins in cells known as melanocytes. It is less common than the other skin cancers, but is more dangerous because it can spread to the other organs if not treated quickly.
Melanocytes are skin cells found in the top layer of the skin, when the skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun, which damage causes the melanocytes to produce more melanin. So burning or browning causes changes or mutations in the melanocyte, which then results in uncontrolled growth in the cells.
Dark-skinned people have more ‘eumelanin’, which protects the skin, while lighter-skinned people have more ‘pheomelanin’. This type of melanin cannot protect the skin and is more prone to sun damage, sunburn and skin cancer.
Melanomas are not so easy to spot at first, especially when they
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