Mole Removal Surgery

Mole Removal Surgery

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that can prove fatal if left untreated. It can occur in a mole or in “normal” skin and is becoming increasingly common amongst both young and old.

Why does melanoma occur?

Melanoma develops from melanocytes (skin cells that produce the melanin pigment). After spending time in the sun, melanocytes produce melanin in a bid to offer protection against the damage. If too much melanin is produced, melanocytes can become cancerous. This can occur in an existing mole, but it is not uncommon for melanoma to present itself in a new mole.

Risks factors for melanoma include:

  • Exposure to both natural and artificial UV light through sunlight and tanning beds
  • Having a susceptible skin type (most notably, a combination of pale skin, fair/red hair, blue eyes and freckles)
  • Previous cases of sunburn
  • Having lots of moles on the body (especially “atypical” moles)
  • A family history of melanoma

The likelihood of developing melanoma increases with age due to the fact that more time has been spent in the sun but it is becoming more common amongst younger people.

What are the symptoms of melanoma?

If you notice that an existing mole has altered in size, shape or appearance, get it checked out as this could indicate melanoma. In particular, seek medical advice if a mole becomes larger, changes in color or texture or develops an irregular appearance. Any growth that repeatedly bleeds, itches or scabs/crusts over or is painful should be checked out too.

For men, melanoma commonly crops up on the chest, neck and head while for women, melanoma often occurs in the lower leg area. However, as melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, it is wise to check all existing moles regularly and keep a close eye on any new ones that may occur.

How can melanoma be prevented?

As coming into contact with ultraviolet (UV) rays is a prominent cause of melanoma, limiting exposure to the sun is one of the best ways to protect against melanoma. This applies to tanning beds as well as natural sunlight.

How is melanoma diagnosed?

If a mole looks even slightly suspicious, it is better to err on the side of caution and get it checked out just in case it does in fact show signs of being cancerous. If your doctor believes that the growth might be cancerous, a referral to a dermatologist should follow. He or she may request a biopsy so that the growth can be tested by a pathologist. If the growth is confirmed as melanoma, “staging” will be carried out to determine the thickness of the tumor, whether or not it is ulcerated and how far it may have spread. The latter may also be determined through Sentinel Lymph Node (SLN) biopsy. Other methods of “staging” can include blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans, chest x-rays and PET scans.

How can melanoma be treated?

If melanoma is diagnosed early enough, there is an excellent chance of full recovery as it has not had the opportunity to spread to other areas of the body. Once it has started to spread, treatment is more challenging and it is more likely to prove fatal. Treatment usually involves having the growth removed and this may be all that is necessary for melanoma that has been caught early. If some of the lymph nodes have been affected, they may also be removed. Treatment for more advanced melanoma may also involve chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

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