Melanoma Part III: How can I treat it?

older couple with man touching woman's nose - risk of melanoma

Melanoma is a scary, harmful cancer to have. It’s important to know that when caught early, melanoma can often be cured with surgery. That being said, when treatment is delayed, it can spread underneath the skin and to other parts of the body, making it harder to eradicate. It is important to know how to identify potentially cancerous areas of the skin and to know how it can be treated.

First, you can remember the “A.B.C.D.E.s” of skin cancer.

  • “A” stands for asymmetry. Moles and freckles will take on a symmetrical, circular shape. When a mole has taken on an asymmetrical or irregular shape, it may be a sign of melanoma.
  • “B” stands for border as benign moles will have a clear border with the skin as to where the mole starts and ends. Cancerous cells will have less definition in their border, meaning they could be inconsistent and less easy to define where the mole starts and ends.
  • “C,” stands for color. A typical mole will have a consistent color across its surface. A mole that is cancerous will take on a pattern of colors across it, exhibiting more than one, or an uneven distribution of one color.
  • “D” stands for diameter. Moles and freckles tend to be very tiny. However, when a mole grows to the point beyond the general size of a pencil eraser, the mole may be cancerous.
  • Lastly, “E” stands for evolution. This could be one of the best ways to tell if a mole is cancerous. If a mole has undergone any changes or has recently started to change form or color, it has a high potential of being cancerous.

If an area of skin has been diagnosed as cancerous, there are many options individuals have to treat it. Mohs Micrographic Surgery is the most effective treatment option of melanoma removal with a 97-99% cure percentage. Mohs Surgery involves allowing a Mohs surgeon to remove cancerous areas while preserving the most maximum healthy amount of tissue possible. The process involves removing one layer of skin at a time and analyzing the skin at a microscopic level to check for cancerous cells. One layer is removed at a time until no cancer remains.

Mohs may not be the best option for every individual. Skin cancer can also be treated with a simple excision, radiation therapy, electrodessication and cutterage, cryosurgery and topical immunomodulators. Talk to a physician at Dermatology Associates of Virginia to find out the best treatment option for your case.

Prevent skin cancer by limiting time spent exposed to harmful UV rays, both in tanning beds and in the sun. Wear sunscreen at all times as well as hats and visors to block rays if you are in the sun. Also, get skin cancer screening regularly so if you do have a melanoma, it can quickly and easily be treated.