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Melanoma by Jane Rolley

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Melanoma, sometimes called cutaneous melanoma or malignant melanoma, is a cancer of cells called melanocytes, which are cells that produce melanin or color of skin pigment and may be found in the eye, digestive tract, and lymph nodes. Melanoma can affect anyone and is a serious skin cancer that varies in color, size, and shape. Risk factors for developing melanoma increase with exposure to the sun and having a family history of melanoma. Early Diagnosis and treatment are detrimental to the survival of those with melanoma. Understanding the risks, signs, diagnoses, and treatments of melanoma significantly increases your chances of preventing and surviving the disease.

The environmental risk of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and heredity, significantly increases the probability of acquiring melanoma. Tanning beds, outdoor work, or any occupation that requires long periods of ultraviolet radiation increases your risk of contracting melanoma. Heredity also plays a major role. Being born with fair skin, light hair, and eyes, or having close relatives diagnosed with melanoma also increases your risk of contracting melanoma. Knowing your family medical history and the use of sunscreen will decrease your chances of obtaining melanoma.

In the early stages, melanoma is confined to the epidermis or top layer of skin and is often described as an unusual mole that grows in size, shape, or color. Melanoma mostly appears in shades of tan and black, though it has been reported to appear in shades of red, white, and blue. The shape of Melanoma averages 6mm or the diameter of a pencil’s eraser. Melanoma may not cause any symptoms in the early stages, but some symptoms associated with melanoma are the mole begins to itch, bleed, or feel painful to the touch. Knowing the signs and symptoms of melanoma will aid in early diagnosis of the disease.

Diagnosis of melanoma can be obtained by a doctor and the stage the disease has progressed will be analyzed, and determine future treatments. Once a mole is suspected to be melanoma, a biopsy will be performed, and the removed skin will be sent to a lab. If melanoma has been detected, the doctor will then determine the magnitude of its growth by stages. In stages 1 and 2, the cancer is confined to the skin and has not spread. Treatments for early stages may be as simple as removing the cancerous skin by excision, or when the doctor will numb and remove a safe margin of skin around the melanoma. Surgical removal by excision often cures melanoma in the early stages. In stage 3, melanoma has spread to nearby skin or the nearest lymph node, and in stage 4, it has spread to internal organs or lymph nodes further from the melanoma patch. When melanoma has spread, treatment becomes complex. Procedures such as Lymphadenectomy-surgical removal of lymph nodes, Immunotherapy-improving the immune system to fight cancer, chemotherapy-medicine known to kill cancer cells, or Radiation therapy used to kill cancer cells, may be necessary to remove melanoma in later stages. Later stages of melanoma are often fatal, and suspected areas should be analyzed immediately to increase your rate of survival.

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that can be prevented and the outcome is determined by the length of its spread. All are at risk of melanoma and the use of sunscreen, protective clothing, and sunglasses, will significantly reduce your chances of contracting Melanoma. Check your body thoroughly for possible signs and symptoms of melanoma will help you catch it in its earlier stages. Diagnosis and treatment by a professional is crucial to your ability to survive melanoma. Knowledge is key to preventing and surviving the deadly cancer of melanoma.



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