It’s hard to think of the adverse effects of sun exposure when enjoying the warm, benevolent rays. But the sun is also a source of UV rays, the primary cause of skin cancers, including the deadliest type: melanoma.
The team at Desert West Surgery uses advanced surgical techniques to treat melanoma, focused on ensuring the entire lesion is removed. If you have melanoma, here’s why surgery will almost certainly be a necessary part of your treatment.
Melanoma cancer happens in the melanocytes, special cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color. Melanoma is the rarest of the primary types of skin cancer, but it’s also the most deadly. Accounting for about 1% of all skin cancers, melanoma causes about 8,000 deaths per year, according to the American Cancer Society.
You can develop melanoma anywhere, but it’s most common on the areas of your body that get the most sun exposure, like your face, arms, legs, and back. Lesions can also form on your scalp and under your nails, as well as areas that don’t get any sun, like the bottoms of your feet.
New areas of hyperpigmented skin or changes to existing moles are the first signs of melanoma. The ABCDE method is often used to help identify those changes: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution.
While ABCDE is essential, you should not rely on it to diagnose melanomas alone. Annual skin cancer checkups are still the mainstay for identifying skin cancers as early as possible when treatment is simplest and most successful.
The primary treatment for melanoma is surgery to remove the lesion, along with a small amount of tissue surrounding it. That’s because melanoma can spread, and it’s essential to remove the entire lesion immediately.
Because melanoma can spread to surrounding tissue without causing any immediate changes in the tissue, the surgeon removes that tissue surrounding the edges of the lesion so it can be examined for cancer cells. If the tissue does contain cancer cells, then additional tissue is removed until the lab confirms that all of the cancer has been removed.
In some cases, your surgeon will recommend removing local lymph nodes, especially if there is evidence that the cancer may have spread to other areas. The lymph nodes are also evaluated in a lab to look for cancer cells. Based on those results, you may need additional surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or other treatments.
Melanoma can be successfully treated, but the key to achieving the best outcomes is to have the cancer diagnosed early. To schedule your annual skin checkup or to have an unusual growth or mole evaluated, book an appointment online or over the phone at Desert West Surgery today.