Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. Even so, if diagnosed and removed while it is still thin and limited to the outermost skin layer, it is almost 100% curable. Once the cancer advances and metastasizes (spreads) to other parts of the body, it is hard to treat and can be deadly. During the past 10 years, the number of cases of melanoma has increased more rapidly than that of any other cancer. Over 51,000 new cases are reported to the American Cancer Society each year, and it is probable that a great many more occur and are not reported.
The answer to the question asked by patients, their families, and other concerned people is that melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. To reach a more complete understanding, it is necessary to learn how the cells in the body become malignant.
Melanoma is a malignant tumor that originates in melanocytes, the cells which produce the pigment melanin that colors our skin, hair, and eyes and is heavily concentrated in most moles. The majority of melanomas, therefore, are black or brown. However, melanomas occasionally stop producing pigment. When that happens, the melanomas may no longer be dark, but are skin-colored, pink, red, or purple.
The physician will tell you whether the melanoma is early or advanced by describing it as either in situ or invasive. “In situ” is Latin and means “in one site” or “localized.” Melanomas in situ occupy only the uppermost part of the epidermis, the top layers of the skin.
Invasive melanomas are the more serious, as they have penetrated more deeply into the skin and may have traveled from the original tumor through the body.
The best treatment is early detection. A quick look from the trained eye of a dermatologist can confirm whether or not a lesion is suspicious for melanoma. If so, the next step is to perform a biopsy. The area is made numb, and a portion, or the entire lesion is removed for examination under the microscope. This simple, quick procedure is performed in the dermatologist’s office. If a melanoma is detected, treatment is guided by how deep in the skin the melanoma is.
For Additonal Information, please go to: http://www.skincancer.org/