The 4-1-1 on Melanoma

MelanomaThere are certain words you don’t want to hear:
“My mother is going to move in with us for awhile.”
“Can we watch that Teletubbies marathon together all day today?”
“The boss wants to see you in his office, now.”

“That growth on your face, it’s melanoma.”

Melanoma is the rarest, but most serious, form of skin cancer. But, despite its deadly reputation, many people don’t really know what melanoma is. A melanoma usually appears as a black or brown asymmetrical spot on the neck, back, or face, but it can occur anywhere on the body. And it doesn’t occur only on areas where you have sun exposure.

What’s so dangerous about melanoma?

Unlike the other forms of skin cancer — basil cell and squamous cell carcinomas that are slow growing and easy to head off — melanomas grow downward. As they grow, they can eventually reach a vein or artery, where they can deposit cancer cells into the bloodstream. From there they can end up anywhere. This is how melanoma kills, when it creates tumors away from the actual growth you can see.

Who’s at risk for melanoma?

Anyone can develop a melanoma, but certain traits/characteristics make a person more vulnerable:

If you:

  • Spend or have spent a lot of time in the sun or in tanning beds
  • Were often sunburned as a child
  • Have a family history of melanoma
  • Have had melanoma before
  • Have fair skin, light eyes, or many freckles
  • Have any abnormal-looking moles or moles that have changed in appearance
  • Have more than 50 moles

Treating melanoma

Drs. Matsuda and Sheu are experts at spotting and treating melanoma. Treatment involves surgically removing the cancerous growth, along with a certain amount of the surrounding healthy skin. The idea is to test this healthy skin moving away from the melanoma growth until it no longer shows any cancerous cells. There are also advances in treatment, drugs, and surgery so that melanoma surgery creates less scarring today than it has at any time in the past.

If you notice any growth that seems abnormal or changes shape, call us right away at 808-949-7568.