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Female doctor examining patients birthmarks for skin cancer in a medical clinic.

Beat Melanoma with the Right Team

If you think you’re too young for melanoma, think again. It’s one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women, and it is not uncommon in those younger than 30.*

While it only accounts for about 1% of skin cancers, melanoma causes most of the deaths due to skin cancers. That’s because melanoma can metastasize or spread to other parts of the body. 

What to Do If You're Diagnosed with Melanoma

That’s why your next step after being diagnosed with melanoma is an important one. For the best possible outcome, it’s important to see a fellowship-trained surgical oncologist with long-standing experience in melanoma and skin cancers who’s part of a multidisciplinary team, including: 

  • High-end dermatologist and Mohs surgeons
  • Surgical oncologists with focus on skin cancers
  • Fellowship-trained dermatopathologist 
  • Wide network of experienced oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Clinical trials navigators in skin cancers

Our team  works together to see, discuss and treat the most serious skin cancers. When it comes to treatment, sooner is always better. Early-stage melanoma means your melanoma hasn't yet spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. Fortunately, early-stage melanoma is common and accounts for approximately 70 to 80% of newly diagnosed melanomas. 

Melanoma Treatments

The good news is melanoma can often be effectively treated through surgical removal of the affected area. The prognosis is very favorable, especially if the lymph nodes do not contain melanoma. In fact, advances in treatment have caused melanoma mortality rates to decline rapidly over the past decade. 

When it’s discovered that melanoma has spread, that knowledge makes it possible to begin drug therapy early if melanoma has spread to the sentinel lymph node (the first node cancer has spread to). It also helps decrease rates of melanoma recurrence. 

If you are diagnosed with melanoma, you may undergo one or more of the following procedures. 

  • Mohs surgery  - Cuts away thin layers of skin while checking microscopically for signs of cancer until no signs of cancer remain.  
  • Wide local excision - Scalpel used to cut out a tumor and some normal tissue around it. 
  • Sentinel Lymph node biopsy - Sentinel lymph node is identified, removed and examined to see if cancer cells are present
  • Lymph node dissection - Lymph nodes are removed and a sample is checked for signs of cancer. 
  • Drug therapy with immunotherapy - Drugs that will trigger your body to fight melanoma when or if it is found in the lymph nodes or other organs. 
  • Resection of stage IV melanoma - Surgery to remove tumor and lymph nodes that have metastasized. 
  • Radical excision of melanoma - Surgery to remove a tumor and a large amount of normal tissue surrounding it. 

There’s much you can do to improve your prognosis. Start by getting regular total body skin exams. See your provider if you have a mole that has changed or looks suspicious. If you don’t already practice sun safety, start now. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from tanning beds is still the leading cause of melanoma. 

Reach out to your provider if you have more questions or concerns.

Resources:

*https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/melanoma-skin-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

Waddah B. Al-Refaie, MBBcH
Waddah B. Al-Refaie, MBBcH

Waddah B. Al-Refaie, MBBcH is a Surgical Oncologist with CHI Health.

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