Malignant melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer. However, many treatments are available today that can put it into remission or even cure it completely, especially if it is discovered and treated very early.
Let’s look at how an experienced skin cancer specialist can treat this difficult skin disease, and where you can go in Gainesville, Athens, and Lake Oconee for world-class dermatology to keep your skin healthy.
What Is Malignant Melanoma?
Melanoma begins in the pigment-producing cells (the cells that produce melanin) in the top layer of the skin. It tends to start in moles, but it can also start due to a high degree of sun exposure or UV rays. As such, the incidence of melanoma is on the rise among young adults who engage in activities to become more tan, including from tanning beds or sunlamps.
Malignant melanoma can spread (metastasize) to the bones, liver, and brain, which is why early detection is key to successful treatment and remission. In fact, one of the best ways to be alert to possible melanoma is careful inspection of existing skin moles, both at home and by a dermatologist.
Moles which suddenly change may be malignant. Melanoma can also develop as a very dark or unusual mark on your skin. These are the ABCDE signs of melanoma to be aware of:
- Asymmetrical shape
- Border is irregular (not smooth)
- Color is uneven
- Diameter is larger than a quarter-inch across (in any direction)
- Evolving size, color, or shape
How Is Melanoma Treated?
Almost all cases of melanoma, regardless of stage, receive some degree of surgical intervention. Radiation therapy or treatment with a special medical cream may be a viable treatment option for early-stage melanoma.
Each individualized treatment plan depends on the results of a biopsy of the cancerous tissue. Your dermatologist will also evaluate the lymph nodes near the lesion site, and determine whether any melanoma cells have spread to one or more lymph nodes.
Treatments for Melanoma
In general, melanoma requires surgical excision of the cancerous lesion. If cancer is discovered in the neighbouring lymph nodes, the dermatologist may add medicines called immune checkpoint inhibitors which can switch on the body’s own immune defences to target the cancer.
Therapy drugs may slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells linked to BRAF gene mutation in some people. This gene has the B-Raf protein, and your dermatologist will determine whether you have this gene.
Stage 2 and stage 3 patients benefit from customized surgery, immune checkpoint inhibitors, and targeted therapy drugs. Stage 3 melanoma patients may also receive radiation therapy, injected drugs (such as interleukin), targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and/or chemotherapy.
With stage 4, or distant-spread, malignant melanoma, all of these treatment options are on the table, along with clinical trials of new drugs and therapies which might help the more serious skin cancers.
Mohs Surgery to Treat Malignant Melanoma
Mohs surgery truly is the gold standard for removing malignant melanoma from the skin. Performed with a high-tech microscope and fine surgical instruments, Mohs surgery involves removing the cancerous lesion one layer at a time. Each layer is analyzed right away by the dermatologist, and layers are removed until a layer shows no cancer – which means it was fully removed.
Because this in-office surgery is so precise, patients suffer less pain and require less suturing. Local anesthesia only is needed, and patients return home within hours. Additionally, any necessary site reconstruction is usually done immediately by the dermatologist.
Skin Cancer Experts in Gainesville, Athens, and Lake Oconee, GA
At Georgia Skin Cancer & Aesthetic Dermatology, Dr. Ross Campbell has advanced fellowship training in Mohs surgery. He performs Mohs procedures with our fully equipped surgical suite and oncology lab.
If you have a problematic spot on your skin, please don’t wait. Call us today at (706) 543-5858 or complete our appointment request form online now to schedule an evaluation. We offer multiple convenient locations: Athens, Commerce, Elberton, Gainesville, Lake Oconee, and Winder, Georgia. We look forward to seeing you and helping you stay healthy!