Although melanoma often appears suddenly and without warning, it may also evolve from an existing mole. It’s caused by unrepaired DNA damage usually resulting from exposure to ultraviolet light, either from the sun or from a tanning bed. This triggers mutations, or genetic defects in your skin cells, that lead them to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Left untreated, melanoma can spread to your lymph nodes and your internal organs, making it much more difficult to treat successfully.
Even though anyone can develop melanoma, certain factors can increase your risk, including:
Melanoma diagnosis begins with a careful, comprehensive skin examination, usually involving a device that lights and magnifies the skin for better viewing. Your doctor will be looking for the ABCDEs of atypical moles, which are the common signs of a melanoma:
If they spot something suspicious, your dermatologist will remove some or all of it so it can be biopsied in a lab. Melanoma cannot be diagnosed without a biopsy.
Treatment protocol for melanoma depends on how far the cancer has spread. The primary goal of any melanoma treatment is to remove all the cancer. This is typically done surgically, either through excision or Mohs surgery. Excision surgery involves numbing your skin, then cutting out the melanoma as well as some of the surrounding skin, also known as the margin area.
Mohs surgery, which is a little more complicated, has a high success rate. This special surgery involves excising the visible parts of the melanoma, and then removing successive layers of skin that may contain cancer cells. Each layer is examined upon removal, and more layers are removed until the cancer is no longer detected. Dr. Hyland Cronin is the Mohs surgeon at Easton Dermatology Associates.
At Easton Dermatology Associates, we accept most major insurance plans. Here is a list of some of the plans we accept. Please contact our office if you do not see your insurance provider listed.