Melanoma skin cancer is a type of skin cancer which develops from skin cells called melanocytes. As Cancer Australia explains, melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in Australia, accounting for an estimated 10.4% of cancer diagnoses in 2018. Melanoma has a high five-year survival rate, and the main danger is in cancer spreading to other organs. This means that early diagnosis is vital. This short guide will explain what the symptoms of melanoma skin cancer are, how it is diagnosed, how it can be prevented, and what treatment options are available.
Symptoms of Melanoma Skin Cancer
The most common symptom of melanoma is the appearance of a strange new mole on the body or a change in an existing mole. This is why it is important to perform regular skin cancer checks. Cancer Research describes what you should be looking for - basically, if a mole gets bigger, changes shape or colour, or looks asymmetrical, you should see your GP as soon as possible.
How Melanoma Skin Cancer is Diagnosed
Most melanomas are diagnosed when someone notices an unusual mole on their body and visits their doctor as a result. The doctor will know if the mole looks suspicious, and will then refer you to a specialist. The mole will then be removed surgically, and will be examined to see if it is indeed cancerous. This is known as a biopsy, and is generally sufficient to diagnose melanoma skin cancer.
Preventing Melanoma Skin Cancer
As the NHS explains, most melanomas are thought to be caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, although there is also evidence that it can be caused by prolonged sunbed use. There is an especial risk for those who are prone to moles and freckles, or who have light skin and hair. You can prevent skin cancer by staying covered up in the sun, wearing suncream, and avoiding the use of tanning beds. You should also perform skin checks regularly so, if you do develop a melanoma, it can be treated as soon as possible.
Treatment for Melanoma Skin Cancer
If your cancer is detected early, then surgical removal is often the only treatment that is needed. If the melanoma has spread to other organs, such as the lymph nodes, then your doctor will be able to recommend a course of treatment, which may include more surgery to remove more tissue around the affected area. If you have stage 3 or 4 cancer, then you will need more specialist treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
While melanoma skin cancer is a serious condition, it is generally not fatal if it is diagnosed as early as possible. Protect yourself from the sun to reduce your chances of developing a melanoma, but don't forget that it can still happen, and perform regular skin checks, as it is in your interests to be diagnosed as soon as possible.Share