Approximately 9,700 individuals in the United States die each year from melanoma. It is the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer. Even though it is extremely dangerous, it is also responds well to treatment when caught early.
Dr. Vivian Bucay and her staff can help you spot the early warning signs of melanoma by conducting a full body skin cancer screening. This screening is essential in the early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma.
What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a potentially life-threatening form of skin cancer of the cells that make up melanin (melanocytes). The fatality rate of melanoma is higher than other forms of skin cancer, such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, melanoma accounts for more than 80% of all skin cancer-related deaths. Early detection of melanoma increases the chances of being cured. It is imperative to see your doctor if you find something suspicious on your skin. The best form of early detection is to perform self-examinations in the mirror.
Symptoms of Melanoma
The most common symptom or sign of melanoma is a change in the appearance of an existing mole. Moles are a natural part of the human body. A normal mole will generally appear uniform in color, have a small shape, and distinctive round or oval borders. Unusual moles that do not look like this may be an early indication of melanoma.
There are several distinctive characteristics of an unusual mole that our staff is looking for during a skin cancer screening. Staff will look for moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular or blurred borders, are changing colors, or appear to be growing/spreading.
How Is Melanoma Diagnosed?
The only way to diagnosis melanoma is through a skin biopsy. If our staff suspects a mole may be indicative of melanoma, they will conduct a skin biopsy. This involves removing either all or a small part of the abnormal mole. The mole will be sent to a lab where it is analyzed for melanoma.
Early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma is essential to preventing it from spreading. Schedule a full body scan with Dr. Vivian Bucay and her staff to learn more about melanoma and assess your risk for this type of skin cancer.
How Does Melanoma Form?
Like other skin cancers, melanoma is the result of damaged DNA. This causes mutated skin cells, which multiply at an alarming rate, forming a tumor. It begins in basal layer of the skin, affecting pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. The tumor often resembles a harmless mole, which grows or changes rapidly. If not treated early, it can spread to other areas of the body, including vital organs.
What Causes Melanoma Skin Cancer?
We take all forms of cancer seriously. However, some cancers are more aggressive than others are, meaning that they spread through the body more quickly. That is exactly why melanoma is the most feared form or skin cancer, even though it isn’t the most common.
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
You are at risk of developing melanoma. The simple fact is that no one is immune, so skin self-checks, and annual cancer screenings could save your life. However, certain factors can increase or decrease the likelihood of developing skin cancer. UV exposure is the number one avoidable risk factor; sun protection and avoidance of tanning salons are the keys to prevention.
Some risk factors are not avoidable. High-risk individuals are advised to be especially aware of their skin, and usually to have cancer screenings more frequently.
- Skin type – Fair skinned people are at greater risk.
- Moles – The more moles that are on your body, the higher the risk of melanoma.
- Family history – Relatives with melanoma indicate a possible genetic predisposition.
- Personal history – If you have been treated for skin cancer in the past, there is a chance of it recurring or new tumors developing.
- Past sun exposure – All too often, adolescents and young adults throw caution to the wind, including sun protection. If you exposed your skin to harmful UV rays in the past, your risk of skin cancers in elevated. Taking proper precautions now can help you avoid increasing your risk even more.
Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment
Treatment of this skin cancer depends heavily on the lesions location, progression, and thickness. The patient’s health, age, medical history, and preferences also determine the method of treatment a doctor may choose to take. First and foremost, we will take a biopsy to determine the extent of the cancer. For most patients, surgery is the most appropriate form of treatment. Other options include chemo and radiation therapy, as well as biologic therapy to improve the body’s self-defense abilities.
Melanoma is one of the deadliest skin cancers. A heartbreaking number of individuals have lost their lives to this disease. However, the medical community is working to change those statistics, battling cancer with science, dedication, and passion. Prevention, detection, and treatment techniques are improving – and saving lives – every day. As a stage 4 melanoma survivor, Dr. Vivian Bucay has a unique understanding of the emotional and physical toll it takes.
Dr. Vivian Bucay As a Survivor
Diagnosed at age 45, Dr. Vivian Bucay’s melanoma had progressed quickly from stage 3 to 4 over the course of a few months. With a 50/50 chance to survive the next 5 years, Dr. Bucay took life in her own hands and persisted with her fight. She has been cancer-free since 2007, inspiring patients nationwide to continue to fight melanoma. To read more about her story, click here to view the Allure article featuring Dr. Bucay.