Melanoma is the most fatal form of skin cancer. Melanoma happens when damaged DNA brought about by UV radiation either from the sun or tanning beds remain unrepaired and causes a mutation or genetic defect. The mutation triggers skin cells to multiply at a fast rate therefore forming malignant tumors. This type of skin cancer can develop in the colored part of the eye and although very rare it also can occur in internal organs such as the intestines.
What Causes Melanoma?
Melanocytes are cells responsible for producing melanin which gives us our skin and hair color. Melanoma develops when there are changes in the melanocytes which disrupt the normal pattern of how skin cells form. In a normal setting, new skin cells grow pushing older skin to come to the surface. The old skin cells die and fall off.
With melanoma, skin cells grow too fast and in a disorderly manner. The disorderly formation of skin cells will eventually trigger the formation of cancerous tissues. Commonly, melanoma starts as a mole or a skin discoloration often sporting a red, pink, blue, purple or white color.
The 5 Stages of Melanoma
There are 5 stages of melanoma. Each stage is based on how thick the lesion is, how deep the penetration and how far it has spread. Let us learn more about each stage.
- Stage 0 – This stage of melanoma is only on the epidermis. This means that melanoma has not reached the second layer of the skin which is the dermis.
- Stage I – Stage 1 melanoma has two subclasses. This stage is characterized by the thickness of tumor, the presence of mitosis as well as the number of mitosis plus the status of ulceration if any.
- Stage II – Stage II melanoma holds 3 subclasses. The thickness of tumor and the status of ulceration are what characterize this stage. At this stage, usually there is no distance or lymph node metastasis.
- Stage III – Stage III melanoma has 3 subclasses. Lymph node metastasis is what characterize this stage. However at Stage III melanoma, distant metastasis is not present.
- Stage IV – At stage IV melanoma, subclasses no longer apply. The location of distant metastasis is what characterize this stage.
Is There a Treatment for Melanoma?
The treatment of melanoma relies heavily on the stage of the cancer, the age of the patient as well as the patient’s medical condition. Early detection of melanoma usually leads to a positive prognosis.
When melanoma is detected early the usual treatment is surgery. The cancer is removed as well as the surrounding tissue during the surgery. When removing the tissues in the surrounding area of the melanoma, surgeons consider how deep the cancer is. Lymph nodes that the cancer has spread to are also taken out. For early melanomas, surgery is usually the only treatment needed.
In advanced cases, treatments include chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy and also surgery.