Melanoma is one type of skin cancer that is extremely common in both, young adults and the elderly alike and is highly metastatic, i.e. cancer rapidly affects the organs in the body.

Melanoma occurs due to uncontrolled growth in the melanin-producing cells present within the skin, known as melanocytes. The pigment melanin is responsible for imparting the colour to the skin.

melanoma

When healthy melanocytes transform into cancerous cells, they grow and divide at an unrestrained pace, due to genetic factors and DNA damage, resulting in a mass of tumorous cells, termed as malignant skin cancer or melanoma.

Certain environmental factors such as prolonged exposure to harmful UV radiation from the sun or residing in locations near the earth’s equator or at higher altitudes which receive direct sun rays can increase the risk of acquiring melanoma.

In addition, a family history of this skin ailment, a vulnerable immune system or frequent use of tanning beds with artificial UV light make a person more prone to getting skin cancer.

Once melanoma propagates within the internal organs of the body such as the heart, brain, lungs and liver, it induces cancers in these parts as well, making it impossible to treat the condition. Also Read: Lung Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Hence, it is important to understand how a person can recognize the characteristic signs of melanoma in the skin quite early so that prompt medical care can be given and the tumourous growths can be completely removed.

Symptoms

The definitive symptoms of melanoma consist of:

  • Sudden abnormal growths of spots of pigmented skin appearing on hands, feet, body, face and back as in the case of psoriasis.
  • Modifications in an existing mole, such as it turn darker in colour or become larger in size.

The indicative factors of melanoma can sometimes be confused with a normal mole. However, normal moles have a uniform colour, a well-defined border, an oval or round shape and a diameter within 6 millimetres, while melanomas do not.

The simplest technique to distinguish melanoma spots from normal moles on the skin is to monitor the ABCDE aspects, where:

  • A stands for asymmetrical shape
  • B stands for irregular border
  • C stands for change in colour
  • D stands for the diameter
  • E stands for evolving

Diagnosis And Treatment

The skin doctor or dermatologist will initially conduct a skin exam, where the external surface is scrutinized from head to toe, for any irregular spots. The healthcare provider will also recommend regular self-examination of the skin, by the patient, so that any odd marks can be detected at once.

The medical expert then excises a segment of the growth on the skin - a procedure called a skin biopsy, to inspect it for signs of melanoma, besides determining the thickness, stage and extent of cancer.

Once the diagnosis of melanoma is confirmed, the physician begins the appropriate course of treatment for the patient.

In case the melanoma has been detected in its early stages, it can be cured by performing a surgical procedure to remove the tumourous growths on affected portions of the skin.

Nevertheless, if the melanoma has become quite severe and has invaded other nearby and distant organs and tissues in the body, advanced remedial protocols need to be delivered to the patient at once.

1. Surgery

This invasive process involves removing the affected lymph nodes or part of the organ such as the liver or kidney, where the healthy tissues are damaged and the cancer has fully developed. Also Read: Kidney Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

2. Chemotherapy

The medical professional prescribes drugs, to be taken orally or administered intravenously, which will specifically target and destroy the cancerous cells in the skin and other affected tissues in the body.

3. Radiation Therapy

Here, high-energy beams containing X-rays or protons are directed at the tumourous growths, to efficiently kill all the cancer cells, without harming the neighbouring healthy cells.

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