Melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancer, but it’s also more likely to spread and become serious. In other words, you don’t want to put off detection and treatment if you have melanoma.
Thankfully, when melanoma is addressed early on, it can often be effectively treated through surgery alone. Early treatment also brings a high survival rate. And knowing the signs of melanoma can help ensure you get treated as early as possible.
Ali Hendi, MD, and his dedicated team of professionals in Chevy Chase, Maryland, provide advanced techniques for detecting and treating all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma.
In this blog, they discuss the basics of melanoma, what its signs are, and how it’s treated.
Melanoma is a condition in which melanocytes — which are the cells that give your skin its color — grow uncontrollably. It only accounts for about 1% of skin cancer diagnoses, but it causes the most deaths related to skin cancer.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing melanoma include:
- Being prone to freckles or sunburns
- Having a family history of melanoma or other skin cancers
- Having light skin and light-colored eyes
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having many or atypical moles
- Having lots of exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds
Age may play a role, too, with the average age for diagnosis landing at age 65. That said, the disease is more common in men overall and more common in women before age 50.
Melanoma can strike in early adulthood, however. It’s actually one of the most common cancers in adults under age 30.
Signs of melanoma
Given the importance of early detection and treatment, it’s crucial to be on the lookout for signs of melanoma. Signs can include the following:
- A shape or size change in an existing mole
- An unusual-looking growth on your skin
- An asymmetrical or jagged-edged mole
- A mole that grows larger than a pencil eraser
- A mole in which its colors change
While these symptoms often crop up on skin that’s been exposed to the sun, melanomas can also form on areas of the body that have had little or no UV exposure, such as the scalp, genitals, palms, or soles of the feet. These types of melanomas are often referred to as hidden melanomas, and if you naturally have darker skin, you have a higher chance of developing these types of melanomas.
As melanoma progresses to advanced stages, it can cause additional symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Fluid buildup in your abdomen
- Hard lumps on your skin
- Hard or swollen lymph nodes
- Tiredness or malaise
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yellowing of your eyes or skin (jaundice)
These signs could mean that the cancer is spreading to other organs, such as your lymph nodes, digestive system, or brain.
Melanoma diagnosis and treatment
If you’re showing signs of melanoma, Dr. Hendi can conduct an exam and run tests, such as the DermaTech PLA test, which is a noninvasive detection alternative to a biopsy.
If you’re diagnosed with early-stage melanoma, Dr. Hendi may recommend Mohs surgery. With this procedure, which Dr. Hendi has performed more than 14,000 times, he removes a thin layer of skin in the affected area and examines it under a microscope. If cancer is present, he removes another thin layer. He continues doing this until he removes a layer in which no cancer is detected.
This procedure is highly recommended, because it removes the cancer and saves as much healthy tissue as possible. Furthermore, it’s highly successful in preventing recurrence.
If it turns out that you have advanced melanoma, you may need a more intense treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy.
If you have a suspicious mole, or if you need treatment, Dr. Hendi can help. To learn more, call 301-812-4591 or book an appointment online with the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, today.