A malignant melanoma, usually simply called a melanoma, is the most serious type of skin cancer. This is a rare type of cancer, and it is the cause of the majority of skin cancer deaths. The first indicator of melanoma is often a mole that looks abnormal. If you have a mole that grows darker, lighter, or changes in size, it's important to get it checked by Dr. Freeman right away.
Melanoma can develop in anyone, but it's most common in males. Melanoma is also more commonly seen in Caucasians than in other races. If you live in an area where it's sunny most of the time, you may be more likely to develop melanoma.
Melanoma is the result of an uncontrollable growth of melanocytes, the cells responsible for creating pigment in the skin. Studies have established a strong correlation between melanocyte expansion and exposure to UV radiation. The UV radiation causes the DNA inside of your skin cells to start mutating, which in turn results in rapid growth. If you spend a lot of time in the sun or in tanning beds, this UV radiation may prompt the melanocyte growth that results in melanoma.
Dr. Freeman will first talk about the changes that led you to seek evaluation. He will then examine the growth, measuring it and then taking a small sample of the cells for a biopsy.
The treatment for melanoma is usually removal if possible. By fully removing the growth and a small portion of the surrounding tissues, there is a good chance that the cancerous cells can be fully excised from your body. Because melanoma can move into the lymph nodes closest to it, those tissues may need to be mapped and then treated as well.
After successful treatment for melanoma, it's very important that patients use great caution with sun exposure in the future. The use of a high SPF sunblock is highly recommended, and protective clothing should be worn whenever possible.