Can Melanoma Be Cured? What Are Your Options?
The vast majority of patients with early-stage melanoma will be cured with surgery alone. For those with more advanced diseases, a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy may be necessary. Some patients may also require immunotherapy or targeted therapy.
Read on for more information about melanoma, its different stages, and treatment options.
What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a skin cancer type that arises from the cells that produce pigment, called melanocytes. Melanocytes can be seen in the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). Melanomas can occur anywhere on your body, but they’re most likely to develop in areas that have had exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, such as the sun or tanning beds.
While melanoma makes up only a small percentage of all skin cancers, it’s the most dangerous type. Its rates have been rising for the last several decades, and it’s now one of the most common cancers worldwide. There are more new melanoma cases than any other cancer combined each year.
After melanoma diagnosis, a patient can live up to 10 years or more with the disease. The five-year survival rate plummets to just 30% if the cancer spreads to other organs.
Stages of Melanoma
Once melanoma is diagnosed, your doctor will stage cancer to determine how far it has spread. There are four main stages of melanoma:
Stage 0: Cancer stays to the top layer of the skin and has not spread.
Stage I: Cancer has spread to the second layer of skin but is still less than 2mm thick.
Stage II: The cancer is more than 2mm thick but has not spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.
Stage III: It has spread to the lymph nodes but not to other organs.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other organs, such as the liver or lungs.
Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
The early signs of melanoma are usually easy to spot. Look for changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole or any new moles on your body.
If you have a mole that changes or notices any new moles, it’s essential to see a doctor immediately. Early detection is the best way to the successful treatment of melanoma.
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- A mole that bleeds or oozes
- A mole that is painful or itchy
What Causes Melanoma?
UV light exposure is the leading cause of melanoma. The UV rays damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to the development of cancer. People who have a history of sunburns are at an increased risk for melanoma, as are those who have had exposure to UV light from tanning beds or lamps.
People with fair skin, blue or green eyes, and red or blond hair are more susceptible to the harmful effects of UV light, but melanoma can occur in people of all skin types. Having a large number of moles or abnormal moles also increases your risk.
Even if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, you’re still exposed to UV rays. These harmful rays can penetrate clouds and glass, so it’s essential to take precautions even on cloudy days or when you’re indoors.
Like other skin problems, such as varicose veins, melanoma is sometimes caused by lifestyle choices or environmental factors. Ensure to look for specialists who understand your unique condition and can recommend the best course of treatment for you. For example, many clinics offer solutions tailored to your specific condition for varicose veins treatment in Toronto.
How Is Melanoma Diagnosed?
Similar to minor skin problems, such as pyogenic granuloma (see treatment options here), lipoma, etc., doctors will often diagnose melanoma by performing a physical exam. Your doctor will check for any new or changing moles on your body and look for any other signs of skin cancer.
If your doctor suspects you have melanoma, they will likely perform a biopsy. The doctors will remove all or part of the suspicious mole during a biopsy. They will send the removed tissue to a laboratory, where it will be examined under a microscope.
If the biopsy reveals that you have melanoma, your doctor will order additional tests to determine how far the cancer has spread, including blood tests, x-rays, MRI scans, or PET scans.
How Is Melanoma Treated?
Melanoma treatment depends on the stage of cancer, its location, and overall health. Like other skin problems (such as dermatofibroma), surgery is the most common treatment for melanoma. The surgery aims to eliminate the cancerous cells while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible.
In some cases, a tiny section of skin around the tumor may also be removed to reduce the risk of cancer returning. This is called a wide local excision. If the cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes, they will also be removed during surgery.
After the procedure, you will likely need to have regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure the cancer doesn’t return. These check-ups may include skin exams, blood tests, and an MRI or CT scan.
If the melanoma has spread to other organs, you may also need radiation or chemotherapy treatments. These treatments can help kill cancerous cells and shrink tumors. That’s why it’s crucial to choose a reputable and experienced surgery clinic, such as Toronto Minor Surgery Center (TMSC), that offers a wide range of treatments for all skin problems. Visit their website for TMSC dermatofibroma surgery, melanoma, and other skin problems.
New treatments are constantly being developed and tested in clinical trials, so there is hope for even those with the most advanced disease. However, It is important to remember that melanoma can come back after it has been treated.
How to Prevent Melanoma
The best and most effective way to prevent melanoma is to avoid exposure to UV light. Below are ways how to prevent it:
- If under the sun, wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and hats.
- Be sure to also use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply it every two hours, especially if sweating or swimming.
- You can also protect yourself from UV light by avoiding tanning beds and sunlamps. These devices emit harmful UV rays that can damage your skin and increase your risk of melanoma.
- If you observe changes in your skin, be sure to see a doctor right away.
Can Melanoma Be Cured?
The outlook for people with melanoma depends on several factors, including the stage of cancer, its location, and overall health. Generally, the earlier melanoma is caught, the better the prognosis.
If the melanoma is caught early, before it has spread to other organs, there is a good chance of a cure. However, even if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, treatment can still help extend life and relieve symptoms.
If you have been diagnosed with melanoma or are concerned about your risk for the disease, ask your doctor about your treatment options.
Though melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer, it can be cured if caught early. Take precautions to protect yourself from UV light exposure and perform regular self-exams. If you have any concerns, make an appointment to see your doctor.
When choosing a surgery clinic, visit their website’s homepage to see their services and testimonials from previous clients. Also, be sure to check their accreditations.