I Have Melanoma: What Is It And What Are My Next Steps?
Melanoma is a dangerous form of skin cancer that should be removed as early as possible. Learn more about melanoma and available treatments.
Are they moles, freckles, sun spots, or skin cancer? The Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute in Greater Philadelphia, PA, strives to give patients the resources they need to watch for the warning signs of melanoma. Though melanoma is seen less often than other kinds of cancer, it can be fatal if not addressed early. Dr. Aradhna Saxena and Dr. David Kasper are board-certified dermatologists who specialize in medical dermatology and skin cancer surgery. If you are concerned about melanoma or melanoma treatment, we encourage you to reach out to our team and schedule a consultation as soon as possible.
Common causes of melanoma
Melanomas usually present as a new mole or an existing mole that changes shape, size, or color quickly. While most moles or freckles on your body resemble each other, melanomas tend to stand out in comparison. But what causes this form of skin cancer, and what can you do to prevent it from occurring?
Melanoma is usually traced back to UV light exposure either directly from the sun or from tanning beds. UV light is a known cancer-causing substance, damaging the skin at the DNA level. When our bodies try to repair themselves, the cells multiply very quickly. If the damage is extensive enough, mutations can develop. The type of skin cancer we get is based on which cells have these mutations. For melanoma, the mutations occur inside cells called melanocytes, which gives our skin its unique color. Other risk factors include:
- A primary relative with melanoma
- Large moles or a high number of moles
- Light-colored or red hair
- Green, blue, or gray eyes
- A history of tanning bed use or sun exposure
- A history of sunburns
Even if you have never been burned by tanning beds or the sun, you are still at high risk of developing melanoma if you have frequent exposure. This is why we stress the importance of self-examinations and mole checks on a regular basis. Greater Philadelphia-area men and women can call the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute to learn more about the causes of melanoma or to schedule a skin cancer screening. Dr. Saxena or Dr. Kasper can monitor your skin and watch out for any abnormal moles.
Tips for detecting melanoma
As mentioned earlier, you should be aware of changing or unusual moles or freckles on your body, especially in places left unprotected from UV rays. Keep in mind, however, that melanomas can show up anywhere on the skin. The Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute uses this simple guide to determine if an unusual spot may be a melanoma:
- A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are lopsided or uneven. If you drew an imaginary line down the middle, the two halves may not match.
- B is for Border. Melanoma borders may have uneven or blurry edges, while common moles have smoother borders.
- C is for Color. While normal moles are a single shade of brown, a melanoma can have multiple shades of brown or black. It may also appear red or white as it changes.
- D is for Diameter. Many experts agree that if a mole is the size of a pencil eraser or larger, it should be assessed regularly.
- E is for Evolving. Any change in size or shape, as well as any new symptoms such as bleeding or itching, should be reported to your doctor right away.
If you’re ever in doubt about a mole, get it checked out! Since melanomas come in many forms, they don’t always follow the rules. This skin cancer can be very dangerous once it advances, so patients in the Fort Washington, PA, and Lansdale, PA, areas should make an appointment with Dr. Saxena or Dr. Kasper right away if anything seems unusual.
If you have been diagnosed with this type of skin cancer, the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute is ready to take the next steps with you for melanoma treatment. Dr. Saxena is a fellowship-trained dermatologic surgeon who specializes in treating skin cancer. During your consultation, she will explain the process in detail so you know exactly what to expect. If you have any questions or concerns, our staff will take the time to address them.
After strategically determining the amount of tissue that needs to be removed, Dr. Saxena surgically extracts the cancer. The surgery is performed with a local anesthetic so you can feel as comfortable as possible during the removal. Following the surgery, patients will feel mild soreness that can be alleviated with over-the-counter pain relievers. If melanoma is diagnosed and treated early on, skin cancer surgery is usually successful in treating the issue. Skin cancer that is not diagnosed until an advanced stage may require additional melanoma treatment to slow the spread of cancer.
Patients diagnosed with melanoma have an increased risk of cancer returning. Based on your condition, the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute will schedule follow-up visits as needed to monitor your health. We will also show you how to examine your skin to help detect if any worrying symptoms arise.
Schedule a skin checkup today
At the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute, we are experienced in the detection, diagnosis, and management of skin cancer as well as skin cancer surgery. When detected and removed early on, melanomas can be successfully treated. If you have noticed any abnormal moles or growths on your skin, we urge you to contact our facility today and schedule a consultation with Dr. Aradhna Saxena or Dr. David Kasper. The Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute has convenient locations in Fort Washington, PA, and Lansdale, PA.