What is melanoma? Recognize and prevent
Melanoma is the most common type of cancer of the skin and mucous membranes and also the type with the highest mortality. Unfortunately, according to Cancer.org, the number of cases of this diagnosis increases every year for the last 30 years. How to notice and recognize danger signs and how to protect yourself as much as possible, read in this article.
Fortunately, melanoma is less common than other types of cancer, but this does not mean that it is worth forgetting to watch for changes in the skin – especially for birthmarks.
Is it melanoma? Symptoms and what to look for
Melanoma often begins with excessive sun exposure. It occurs when normal skin cells become atypical, i.e. cancerous. They grow and attack surrounding cells – which is very dangerous.
There are also certain risk factors:
- If you already had cases of skin cancer (heredity) in your family,
- A lot of atypical moles in family members (even if the moles are not cancerous)
The most important sign that can indicate melanoma is any change in the size, shape or color of the birthmark or other cutaneous growth. The changes should be monitored for a month. With certain changes, you need to see a doctor.
An early change could manifest as:
- Asymmetry. It can manifest itself in asymmetric form, as well as in the asymmetrical color of the mole, its color variations from edge to edge, the spreading of the color of the mole onto the adjacent skin.
- Diameter. Moles, the size of which exceeds 6 millimeters in diameter.
Symptoms of melanoma can be seen in already existing moles/birthmarks.
- Raising a previously flat birthmark or its thickening
- Peeling, discharge, bleeding or crusts on the mole
- Concomitant pigmentation in the skin around the birthmark
- Sensitivity – for example, itching, tingling or burning
- Softening or detaching small pieces
Also, melanoma of the skin in later stages may have the following symptoms:
- Pain syndrome
- Pigmentation of the skin
Often, melanomas grow on an “empty” area of the skin, but this can happen in the mole or birthmark that already exists. Most often they can be found on the upper back of men and women, and also on legs (in women). Less often, they can occur on feet, palms, nail bed or mucous membranes. Many other skin conditions – such as keratosis, warts and basal cell carcinoma – have signs similar to those of melanoma.
What causes melanoma? Prevention
The most well-known cause of melanoma, as already mentioned, is prolonged exposure to the sun, although sometimes melanoma also occurs in places that are usually covered with clothing. To reduce the risk of melanoma, follow these guidelines:
- Try not to be in the sun from 10 to 16 hours, during the greatest activity of the sun
- Wear a hat that shadows your face, long pants and sleeves
- Get the habit of using sunscreen before going outside, with SPF 15-20 or more, and also with UVA and UVB protection
- Avoid sunbathing and artificial sunburn.
Try to avoid what is considered a risk factor for skin cancer. Such factors may indicate both moderate and increased risk.
A moderate risk of melanoma is represented by:
- Systematic irradiation with ultraviolet light, or intensive exposure to the sun over the course of 14 days for office workers (e.g. beach vacation)
- Visiting solarium at the age of 30, as well as irradiation with sun rays in childhood and adolescence
- Light skin tone
- Geographical location
Factors of high risk of skin cancer:
- Cancer in history (especially up to 40 years), as well as in family history
- More than 8 nevi with a diameter of more than 6 mm on the skin or a giant nevus (more than 1.5 cm) from the birth
- Changes in the appearance of the nevus
- Pigmented xeroderma
- Syndrome of dysplastic nevi
How is melanoma treated?
A dermatologist will examine your skin for melanoma. If the doctor suspects the disease, then they will take a tissue sample from the site around the melanoma (this procedure is called biopsy). After this, a pathologist examines this tissue for the presence of cancer cells.
Melanoma can affect just the skin, but it can also spread to other organs and bones. Fortunately, it can be cured if it is detected and treated earl, so at the slightest suspicion of skin cancer, you should immediately contact a dermatologist.
The following methods can be used to treat melanoma:
- Hormonal therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Admission of pain medication
Depending on where the melanoma is located and its thickness, a scar may remain after the removal operation. It may be that you may need another operation to get rid of the scar.
After the operation, you will visit the doctor every 3 to 6 months for the next 5 years. During these visits, the doctor will check if the disease has returned, and whether you have new melanomas.
Treatment in Switzerland with Airdoc
In Switzerland, you can expect an excellent quality of medical care in combination with a comfortable stay, which is comparable with a vacation. Clinics in Switzerland combine an undeniable proven quality and a warm attitude to patients. Airdoc works with Swiss and foreign medical specialists who find an individual approach to each patient. When selecting clinics, we pay special attention to the infrastructure needed for a particular check-up or treatment, and we choose only the best quality/price ratio for our clients.
Text: Dmitry Bratyshev