What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer. It is seen developing in the melanocytes cells, which are responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin.
Melanomas are also found to be developing in the eyes, as well as internal organs (such as intestines) in very rare cases.
What are the causes of Melanoma?
Although the exact causes of melanoma is not known the doctors have been able to identify certain risk factors that contribute towards the development of melanoma, such as:
- Exposure to ultra violet (UV) rays
- People above 40 years of age
What are the signs and symptoms of Melanoma?
Melanomas may develop on any part of the body but are mostly known to develop in the parts that are exposed to the sun normally, such as the back, legs, face and the arms.
Melanomas can also develop in parts of the body that are not exposed to the sun, such as feet soles, palms of the hands and the beds of the fingernails.
The initial signs and symptoms of melanoma are:
- Existing mole exhibits noticeable changes in shape, size or texture
- New and unusual pigmented (dark colored) growth seen on the skin
Melanomas are mostly seen starting as a mole and it is important to check the body regularly for the development of new moles or any other similar abnormal growth on the skin. Normally, a person has around 10-40 moles on their body and most of these develop around 50 years of age.
It is easier to identify the abnormal characteristics of a mole with the following technique. Remembering the ABCDE of the moles:
- A (Asymmetrical Shape) – Irregular-shaped moles
- B (irregular Border) – Notched/scalloped borders
- C (Change in Color) – Uneven color distribution
- D (Diameter) – Mole larger than 6 mm
- E (Evolving) – Mole changes characteristics over time
What are the risk factors associated with development of Melanoma?
These are some of the risk factors that may contribute towards the development of melanoma:
- Fair Complexion – Having lesser melanin (pigment) in the skin results in lesser protection against damage from UV radiation.
- Frequent Sunburns – One or more severe and dangerous sunburns can increase the risk of melanoma.
- Exposure to UV rays – Prolonged exposure to ultra violet (UV) rays (from sun or tanning lights/beds) also increase the risk of melanoma.
- Numerous/Unusual moles – Having abnormal number of moles (more than 50) on the body may indicate towards increased risk of development of melanoma in a person.
- Weak Immune System – A person with a weakened immune system, (usually after organ transplant) are more prone to develop melanoma.
How is Melanoma diagnosed?
Periodic skin cancer screening is the most ideal way to detect and diagnose melanoma at its earliest stages.
In case a melanoma is suspected, the doctor might advise several diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of the skin cancer.
These are the commonly performed diagnostic tests for detecting melanoma:
- Punch Biopsy – This involves using a specialized surgical instrument with a circular blade which is pressed into the skin around the suspected melanoma (mole) and a round piece of skin is removed.
- Excision Biopsy – This procedure requires the entire abnormal (mole) growth to be removed, as well as a margin of the surrounding healthy skin tissue.
- Incision Biopsy – In this procedure, the doctor will remove only the most irregular/abnormal portion of the growth (mole) for detailed laboratory analysis.
The melanoma is also staged into several categories in order to plan an effective and efficient treatment for it. This staging is done through identifying several factors such as:
- Thickness – The thickness of a suspected melanoma is measured by examining the melanoma carefully under a microscope using a micrometer. The thicker the melanoma is the more advanced the disease is.
- Spread (Metastasize) – A sentinel node biopsy may be required to determine if the melanoma has spread to other surrounding tissues or organs.
How is Melanoma treated?
The surgeon/doctor will take into consideration several factors (such as size, stage of cancer as well as patient’s overall health) to determine the best and most effective course of treatment for the particular case of melanoma.
Early stage melanomas are treated usually with surgery. This treatment involves removing the melanoma using surgical methods. Thinner melanomas (abnormal males) can be completely removed using surgical methods. The surgeon might also choose to remove a bordering portion from the surrounding healthy skin as well to prevent recurrence of the melanoma.
Advanced stage melanomas may require treatments, such as:
- Lymph Node removal surgery – In case the melanoma is spread to the nearby lymph nodes (Stage 3 and 4) the surgeon may advise removal of the affected lymph nodes entirely.
- Chemotherapy – This treatment method uses medicinal drugs designed to attack only the cancerous cells. This can be administered orally or by using intravenous (Injections) methods.
- Radiotherapy – This technique involves using a precise beam of high-energy to target and destroy the melanoma as well as to help relieve the symptoms being caused by an advanced melanoma.
- Biological Therapy – This therapy mainly works by boosting the body’s immune system to help fight against the skin cancer.
Why choose Travcure for Melanoma Treatment in India?
India is known worldwide for its most expansive and high-quality network of advanced healthcare facilities that are spread over all its major cities, such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, etc. These are global-class quality hospitals and clinics that are managed by India’s most trusted and experienced doctors and specialists. These highly-advanced medical facilities are regularly used by Travcure for providing the best, most efficient and advanced melanoma treatment at the most affordable cost to the patient.