Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer that develops from mutations in the melanocytes in the skin. These mutations cause uncontrolled growth of malignant tumors that can metastasize very quickly. At Greenwich Point Dermatology in Greenwich, CT, Dr. Dolder recommends sun protection all year round in addition to annual skin checks to monitor any abnormal lesions and signs of melanoma. Early detection and treatment is key to curing this cancer.
What are the signs and symptoms of melanoma?
Melanoma presents as abnormal moles that are black or brown, but can also be pink, red, purple, blue, white, or flesh-colored. Look for lesions that have the following characteristics:
- irregular borders
- varied in color
- large in diameter
It’s also important to monitor any mole that is evolving rapidly as that could be an indicator of a melanoma.
At the first sign of a suspicious lesion, it is essential to schedule an appointment for an exam and biopsy to reduce the risk of additional spreading.
What are the stages of melanoma?
Once a melanoma has been diagnosed upon exam and biopsy, it is graded based on its thickness, depth, and spread. These grades are called stages.
- Stage 0: lesion is still in the epidermis
- Stage I: lesion has penetrated the dermis
- Stage II: lesion has penetrated the dermis to a deeper level and may have ulcerated, making them more likely to spread
- Stage III / Stage IV: cancer has metastasized to lymph nodes or other parts of the body What are my treatment options for melanoma?
Due to the severity and risks associated with melanoma, the most common treatment is surgical excision. This removes the mole, or lesion, itself in addition to a small surrounding clear border to ensure that all the cancerous cells are captured and removed.
If a melanoma is of stage I or II, more invasive techniques and therapies are needed. A surgical oncologist may be consulted or chemotherapy may be used. Additionally, Mohs micrographic surgery may be used if the lesion is in a delicate aesthetic area.
If any of these more invasive and involved modalities are necessary, Dr. Dolder can refer you to an expert team of specialists for the very best care.