Delta Medix Patient General Information

Melanoma

Melanoma is a form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin or color found in skin). When skin is exposed to UV radiation, melanocytes make more pigment, causing the skin to darken or tan. Melanoma may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.

Melanoma cells can spread throughout the body by breaking away from the original growth to enter blood vessels or lymph vessels. The cancer cells may be found in nearby lymph nodes. The cancer cells can also spread to other tissues and attach there to form new tumors that may damage those tissues. The spread of cancer cells is called metastasis.

Symptoms of melanoma

  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.
  • Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
  • Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
  • Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase.
  • Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.

If you have a change on your skin, your doctor must find out whether or not the problem is from cancer by performing a biopsy of the skin.

Treatment Options for Melanoma

  • Surgery - In general, the surgeon will remove the melanoma and some normal tissue around it. This reduces the chance that cancer cells will be left in the area. For people with cancer that has spread to lymph nodes, the surgeon may remove some or all of the nearby lymph nodes. Additional treatment may be needed after surgery.
  • Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and can affect cancer cells all over the body. Anticancer drugs may be given through a vein, but some may be given by mouth.
  • Biologic Therapy is a treatment used for advanced melanoma to improve the body’s natural defense against cancer (immune system response).
  • Radiation Therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It may be used for melanoma that has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.