Understanding Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. While this type of skin cancer forms in the cells that produce melanin and usually in the skin, it can also form in the eyes and internal organs.

Melanoma can develop from spending too much time in the sun, but it can also form de novo, including on sun-protected areas. Tanning bed use is also related to melanoma formation.

What are the Warning Signs?

Melanoma is treatable when doctors detect it in the early stages. Since this deadly form of cancer can spread quickly, it is important to see a board-certified dermatologist if any warning signs and symptoms appear. Those who notice new moles or growths on their skin should visit a doctor to make sure the spots are not cancerous. People should also visit the doctor if any of their existing moles start growing or changing colors. Skin spots that itch, bleed and do not heal are also potential warning signs.

How Do Doctors Classify Melanoma?

Doctors classify melanoma by its degree of severity. Each stage represents how far the cancer has spread. Doctors use this staging system when creating a treatment plan. If a patient has Stage 0 tumors, then the cancer is only on the surface of the skin and has yet to start spreading. Stage I tumors penetrate the skin but are still small and easy to treat. By Stage II, the tumors are growing larger and at a faster rate. A cancerous lesion in this stage is generally over a millimeter thick. Stage III and Stage IV are the most severe. When a person is in Stage IV, it means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

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What are Hidden Melanomas?

Melanomas can form on parts of the body that usually remain hidden from the sun. For example, people can develop melanomas between their toes or on their scalp. People rarely check these areas for skin cancer. Approximately 10,130 people die each year in the United States from this deadly form of skin cancer. To prevent this from occurring, people should self-examine their skin from head to toe at least once a month.

How Is Melanoma Treated?

Surgeons must excise melanomas to provide the highest chance of survival. If caught early enough, your dermatologist at the Calabasas Dermatology Center may offer to do the surgery right in the office under local anesthesia. However, more serious cases will require referral to an oncologic surgeon, in order to perform lymph node examination.

Dr. Weitzbuch is a highly qualified and trained dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. To learn more about melanoma treatment, contact us today. If you believe you have melanoma but have not been diagnosed, seek immediate attention by one of our experts at the Calabasas Dermatology Center.

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