Melanoma – (Symptoms and Treatments for Melanoma) – Fort Washington, PA

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About Melanoma

While melanoma is seen less frequently than other kinds of skin cancer, it's considered the most concerning. It is a very aggressive skin cancer than can be fatal if it is not addressed early enough. A yearly skin cancer screening can aid in the prevention of this cancer and is crucial if you have a personal or family history of melanoma. With annual screenings at the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Aradhna Saxena can monitor your skin for abnormal or evolving moles and ensure your skin is healthy. Typically, melanomas show up as a new mole or as an existing mole that grows, changes shape, changes color, begins to itch, etc. Any moles that change color to very dark or black, grow, have blurred or uneven borders, bleed, or itch are potential melanomas.

When the pigmented cells in the epidermis, called melanocytes, become malignant, this is when melanomas form. This is most usually due to the skin cells being damaged by UV exposure, either from the sun or tanning beds. This type of damage happens at the DNA level, which causes the cells to mutate or multiply very rapidly, which creates the visible growth. Patients can also be genetically vulnerable to developing melanoma, and these individuals are particularly at risk for DNA damage from sun exposure. Melanomas are usually visible, but because of how quickly they can form, it's vital to get annual skin cancer screenings — or bi-annual if you or a family member have had skin cancer before. It's also very important to learn to perform regular mole checks and self-examinations. Contact the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute today to schedule a skin cancer screening or learn more about melanoma.

Causes

Virtually anyone can develop melanomas, particularly those with a history of sun or UV exposure or those genetically predisposed. Individuals with a primary relative, for example, a sibling, child, or parent, have a higher potential for developing a melanoma. Other risk factors include: 

  • Having a high number of moles or having large-sized moles
  • Having light-colored or red hair
  • Having blue, green, or gray eyes
  • A history of tanning bed use (even if you never burned)
  • A history or sun exposure (even if you never burned)
  • A history of multiple or severe sunburns

Symptoms

At the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute, we use the ABCDE method to help you understand how to spot any potential melanomas on your skin:

  • A: Asymmetrical (malignant moles usually have one side that is bigger or differently shaped than the other)
  • B: Borders (malignant moles usually have irregular or blurred borders)
  • C: Color (malignant moles are typically dark in color or are multi-colored)
  • D: Diameter (a diameter of more than 6mm, or about the size or a pencil eraser, is a sign of malignancy)
  • E: Evolving (moles that grow or change in any way should be checked right away)

Harmless freckles and moles can also have some of these factors, but it's best to have anything suspicious checked by a dermatologist.

Treatments

At the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute, Dr. Saxena typically removes melanomas via surgical excision with a standard margin.

This involves removing the cancer with a scalpel, along with a strategically determined amount of the surrounding tissue. This type of excision is considered invasive, and the procedure is performed with a local anesthetic. However, it is an outpatient treatment, and most patients feel only mild discomfort afterward that can be managed with OTC pain relievers.

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Dr. Aradhna Saxena is a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon specializing in screening and treating patients for all types of skin cancer. Melanomas typically present the most danger, but if they are detected and removed early enough, they can be eradicated. If you've seen any changes in your moles or other abnormal or new skin lesions, we urge you to schedule an appointment at the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute right away. We have offices in Fort Washington, Lansdale, and Willow Grove, PA.

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