Parker Center for Plastic Surgery

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and typically afflicts those who are occasionally exposed to intense UV radiation. Growths and lesions develop when sun damages the skin cells and triggers genetic defects that form malignant tumors in the basal layer of the epidermis.

Melanomas typically appear black and brown, resembling moles or developing directly from moles. As with any form of skin cancer, early detection is important. Although melanoma can be extremely dangerous, it is almost always curable if it is found and treated early.

Melanoma Warning Signs

Although melanomas typically resemble moles, there are multiple things to watch for. If anything feels or looks off, it is important to set up an appointment with your dermatologist or board certified plastic surgeon. Be sure to learn your ABCDEs:

  • Asymmetry—If you could fold your mole or lesion in half, would the two sides match? Asymmetrical appearance of a new growth or existing mole could be a red flag.
  • Border—If the borders of the lesion are uneven or jagged, get the growth checked out.
  • Color—A variety of colors can be a warning sign. Colors that can appear in melanomas range from brown or black to blue or red.
  • Diameter—The size of the mole or growth can be an indication of melanoma, which are typically larger in size. A good test is to compare your mole to a pencil eraser. If it is bigger in diameter, call your doctor.
  • Evolution—Perhaps the most important area to consider is how the growth has evolved. Any change at all should be taken seriously, whether it is in appearance (size, shape, color), feeling (pain, itching, numbness), or behavior (bleeding, crusting, oozing)

Treating Melanoma

As the most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma is best treated early before it is able to spread to other areas of the body. The first step to removing melanoma is a biopsy, which will help determine the best course of action. The following procedure is commonly used to treat melanoma skin cancer:

  • Surgical excision of malignant melanomas is a treatment option for those who do not require Mohs surgery and is performed entirely by Dr. Parker. This procedure involves surgically excising the melanoma and a margin of skin around it, based on the Breslow thickness of the biopsy.

What to Do if You Suspect You Have Melanoma

If you have noticed any of the above warning signs, it is imperative that you communicate with your physician, whether he or she is a dermatologist or board certified plastic surgeon. For any form of skin cancer, early detection is the most important factor in successful treatment. Perform regular self-examinations and report any changes in your skin to your doctor right away.

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