Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, and its incidence is increasing. Like other types of skin cancer, treatment outcomes are overall positive, especially when it can be diagnosed early. For this reason, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of melanoma so you can seek care from a qualified dermatologist like Dr. Damstetter as soon as possible. Patients in Glenview Illinois who notice signs of skin cancer can turn to Reserve Dermatology for effective treatment options.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that affects the melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, in the skin or other tissues. In cases of melanoma, the melanocytes grow abnormally and uncontrollably. It is the most serious type of skin cancer because it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body and, in some cases, is fatal. The earlier melanoma is detected, the higher the overall cure rates and survival.
What Causes Melanoma?
Melanoma is caused by abnormal growth in the melanocytes. In healthy skin, new cells push older skin cells to the surface, where they die and fall away. In cases of melanoma, the melanocytes grow out of control due to damaged DNA, forming a mass of cancer.
Researchers and dermatologists believe that many cases of melanoma are caused by damage from UV rays due to excess sun exposure or indoor tanning over time. However, other factors can increase your risk of melanoma. These include:
- Fair skin
- History of sunburn
- Family history of melanoma
- Living in a sunny climate or at a high elevation
- Having a large number of moles
- Weakened immune system
“Dr. Liz is truly the best dermatologist I’ve ever been to. She is attentive, kind, and genuinely cares about her patients and their overall skin health. I can not recommend her enough!!!”
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“Dr. Damstetter was the first dermatologist I trusted to do my Botox. She is both knowledgeable and professional and did a fantastic job. I will be using her for any and all of my future needs.”
Melanomas are irregularly shaped growths that are usually dark in color. Occasionally they appear pink or red. They may begin as normal moles which then progress into cancer over time. Melanomas are most likely to develop in areas that receive a large amount of sun exposure, such as the face, neck, chest, shoulders, forearms, or hands. However, they can occur anywhere on the body, including the soles of the feet or the nail beds. It is especially important for those with darker skin tones to regularly check these hidden areas.
To identify potential melanoma, keep the mnemonic device “ABCDE” in mind. This stands for:
- A- asymmetry
- B- irregular border
- C- changes in color
- D- diameter larger than ¼ inch, or the size of a pencil eraser
- E- evolving, or changing in shape, size, or color over time.
Some patients find it helpful to photograph their moles so they can compare them from month to month as they perform regular self-skin checks at home. Other symptoms may include itchiness or bleeding.
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Melanoma Diagnosis and Treatment
After conducting a visual examination and reviewing your health history, Dr. Damstetter may suggest a biopsy to diagnose melanoma. This involves removing a small amount of tissue to examine it in a lab. In some cases, the biopsy will completely remove the suspicious mole.
If you are diagnosed with melanoma, Dr. Damstetter will then remove the cancerous tissue. This can be completely surgically under local anesthesia. In cases where melanoma has spread beyond the skin, additional procedures are necessary. This may include removing affected lymph nodes, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, depending on your condition.
Schedule an Appointment
If you notice signs of melanoma, it is important to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Call Reserve Dermatology in Glenview Illinois or contact us online to schedule your appointment with Dr. Damstetter.