When people think about skin cancer they tend to think immediately about Melanoma. Melanoma comes from certain types of cells and epidermis called melanocytes and those are the cells that give pigment and color to our skin. When those cells go wrong when those melanocytes go wrong that gives rise to Melanoma.
Melanoma is the skin cancer that kills the most people every year in the United States. In the United States, there are about 80000 cases of melanoma per year. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer because it is cancer that is most likely to spread other organs. Other types of skin cancer are rarely spread outside the surface of the skin. The ability of melanoma to metastasize makes it the most deadly.
Spreading of cancer is called metastasis. Thicker melanomas have a higher risk of metastasis. The most common internal organs affected by melanoma metastasis are the lungs and liver. Melanoma does predominantly exist in older populations. However, the amount of numbers in the younger populations is much higher than other types of lethal cancers. Lentigo malignant melanoma which tends to occur in older people and usually begins in areas that have had a lot of sun exposure. Acral lentiginous melanoma which develops on palms, soles or under the nail bed and is not related to sun exposure.
To determine the stage of a melanoma, this process involves a biopsy and thorough medical history and physical exam and medical tests to see if the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body. In a biopsy small sample of the skin tissue with melanoma is removed and studied under a microscope. The biopsy helps confirms the type of melanoma. The four types of melanoma are superficial spreading melanoma which is the most common type. Nodular melanoma which often appears rapidly as a bump on the skin.
Stage one and stage two means the melanoma is in the skin only. Stage one melanoma is less than one millimeter thick and stage two is more than two millimeters thick. Stage one and stage two melanoma has a cure rate of about 95 percent so if you catch it early. A Thicker melanoma is something that is still in the skin but has not spread to the lymph node of rest of the body. Cure of melanoma if catching it at stage one the chance of cure is 70 to 80 percent.
A stage three melanoma is a stage where the melanoma has escaped from the skin and gone to lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped collections of immune system tissue throughout the body. Stage three has divided into three stages A, B, and C. it’s depending on how many lymph nodes are involved. The cure rate there drops all the way down as low as 20% if many lymph nodes are involved and as high as 60 to 70% if only one lymph node is involved. If a melanoma is on the forearm and its spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit it would be stage three melanoma.
A stage four melanoma is a melanoma that is left the lymph nodes and goes to the distant part of the body such as lung, liver, and brain. There is survival rate is much less, the overall average median survival is in the order of months to a year maybe. However, these numbers are getting better with new advance therapies.
The surgeon goal is to ensure that the melanoma is removed completely. When the melanoma is dark brown and black in a background of lighter colored skin the naked eye is very good at seeing the edges of the melanoma. However, there are many pigmented spots around the site of the melanoma or if the melanoma does not have a dark color it may be difficult for the surgeon to determine where the melanoma starts and stop using the naked eye alone. In these instances, a doctor may be recommended Mohs micrographic surgery to make sure that the melanoma is completely removed.
Mohs surgery is a highly specialized technique in which the surgeon removes the visible portions of the melanoma and immediately examines 100% of the edges under the microscopes. If the Mohs surgeon detects microscopic areas of cancer that were not visible to the naked eye. The surgeon removes more of the skin where cancer still remains. This process of removing areas of skin affected by melanoma and examining them under the microscopes continues and so cancer will be completely removed.
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer because it is cancer that is most likely to spread other organs.