Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month

6 May, 2016

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer and is one of the most prevalent and dangerous cancers known today. This is a more common cancer now and is treatable if detected and treated promptly and sufficiently.

This is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and these cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that causes the skin cells to multiply swiftly and form malignant tumors. These tumors start in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the skin. Melanomas often resemble moles or some may also develop from moles. Mostly, the melanomas are black or brown, however they can be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white also. Melanoma is caused mostly by intense, occasional UV exposure, especially in those who are genetically vulnerable to the disease.

In case a melanoma is detected and treated early, it is almost always curable, however if it is not, the cancer can advance and metastasize to other parts of the body, where it becomes more difficult to treat and can also be fatal. While it is not the most common of the skin cancers, it causes the most deaths worldwide. A person with more than 100 moles is at higher risk for development of melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles, hence it is important to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body.

If you are in a high-vulnerability group for skin cancer (or have ever been treated previously for some form of the disease) you need to know how skin cancers look. Examine your skin from head to toe every few months, using a full-length mirror and hand mirror to check your mouth, nose, scalp, palms, soles, backs of ears, genital area, and between the buttocks. Cover every inch of skin and pay special attention to moles and sites of previous skin cancer. If you find a suspicious growth, have it immediately examined by a dermatologist.

The general warning signs of skin cancer include changes in size, color, shape, or texture of a mole or other skin growth, an open or inflamed skin wound that won’t heal, change in an existing mole, small and dark, multicolored spot with irregular borders (either elevated or flat) which may bleed and form a scab, cluster of shiny, firm, dark bumps or a mole larger than a few millimeters.

An easy way to remember the signs and symptoms of a melanoma is the ABCDEs of melanoma: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color changes, Diameter larger than 4-5 millimeters, Evolution of a mole’s characteristics (such as its size, shape, color, elevation, bleeding, itching, or crusting).

Basal cell carcinoma may appear on sun-exposed skin as a pearly (flesh-colored) oval bump with a rolled border, which may develop into a bleeding ulcer later, a smooth red dot indented in the center, a reddish, brown, or bluish black patch of skin on the chest or back. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear on sun-exposed skin as a firm, reddish bump that grows gradually or a flat spot that becomes a bleeding sore that won’t heal.

Melanoma is diagnosed through various diagnostic methods such as a physical exam, skin biopsy for detailed analysis of the skin cells, lymph node examination for swelling/enlargement. Imaging tests such as PET scan, MRI scan, and CT scan are performed to mostly check for skin cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasizing). Other diagnostic tests include total-body photography for checking any changes in the present moles as well as to check for the appearance of new moles.

Melanoma may be cured if it’s found and treated in the initial stages when it affects only the skin. In case the melanoma spreads to other parts of the body, it is much harder to treat. The stage of the melanoma will mostly decide the type of treatment and its duration as well.

There are various different treatment choices for a melanoma case, such as surgery. The surgery involved removing the entire melanoma by cutting (excising) it, along with a small margin of normal-appearing skin around the trouble-spot, this is used for biopsy purposes. Another form of treatment for melanoma is chemotherapy, which uses medicinal drugs to stop (or slow) the growth of cancerous cells. Immunotherapy is another similar melanoma treatment method and it uses medicines to help the body’s natural immune system fight the cancer. A comparatively new form of melanoma treatment is targeted therapy with inhibitors. These are medicinal drugs that inhibit (prevent) cancerous cells from growing by blocking signals in the cell. Inhibitors are only given if a gene test shows that a person has the BRAF gene mutation.

Travcure is India’s leading provider of medical tourism services for efficient and affordable melanoma treatment in India. It is connected to a country-wide network of world-class hospitals and clinics that are equipped with the latest and most modern medical equipments and managed by the country’s top medical professionals and experts. Travcure aims to offer every individual patient from abroad with a unique bespoke treatment package that will get them the best, most affordable and effectively convenient melanoma, or skin cancer, treatment in India.

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