Melanoma | Lynchburg, VA
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanomas develop from melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells in the epidermis. Dermatologists have created the ABCDEs of melanoma to classify them. Look for the signs:
- Asymmetry – mole is not round or symmetrical when divided in half
- Border – Edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred
- Color – uneven distribution of colors black, brown and tan
- Diameter – greater than 6mm
- Evolving – changing in size, color or shape over time
Melanomas are aggressive cancers, so early detection is crucial to getting the best prognosis. At-home monthly exams and yearly dermatologic examinations are the best tools to catch melanoma early. If you are even slightly suspicious of anything, call your doctor right away. Seven Hills Dermatology encourages everyone to get a yearly skin examination. The Melanoma Research Foundation offers a melanoma fact sheet, which provides useful information regarding the statistics of melanoma cases in the United States – Melanoma Fact Sheet.
Symptoms of Melanoma
An important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot/mole that is evolving, or changing in size, shape or color. Another critical warning sign is a spot that looks different from all other spots on your skin. This is known by dermatologist as the ugly duckling sign. During monthly skin checks, use the ABCDE guide to evaluate your moles and tell your doctor if you are suspicious of any new mole or spot.
Occasionally, melanomas do not fit into the ABCDE guidelines. According to the American Cancer Society, other warning signs of melanoma include:
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- Spread of pigment from the border of a mole into the surrounding skin
- Redness or swelling beyond the border of the mole
- Change in sensation – a mole may become itchy, tender or painful
- Change in surface of a mole – the top layer of a mole may become scaly, start to ooze or bleed
Dr. Ry Bohrnstedt of Seven Hills Dermatology, is passionate about the education and early detection of skin cancer. Reduce your risk by using sunscreen and perform monthly skin checks to any detect changes in moles. See your doctor right away if a mole or spot appears different.
Diagnosis & Surgical Treatment of Melanoma
To accurately diagnose melanoma, a biopsy procedure must be performed to remove part or all of the suspicious mole or growth. The primary technique used to obtain diagnostic, full-thickness skin specimens is a punch biopsy. A pathologist will evaluate the cells under magnification and determine if melanoma cells are present.
Surgical removal is the first-line treatment for melanoma skin cancer. When caught early, while the melanoma is still localized and thin, surgery is often curative. An excision is performed under local anesthesia to remove the melanoma as well as the margin (or normal tissue) around the cancer to make sure that all of the cancer was removed. Further surgeries may be required if melanoma cancer cells are found in the margin.
At Seven Hills Dermatology, we encourage everyone to wear sunscreen: please! Unlike other cancers, you can help minimize your risk of skin cancer by reducing your exposure to UV rays from the sun. Getting too much sun is harmful. “It takes only one blistering sunburn, especially at a young age, to more than double a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life.” ~ Melanoma Research Foundation. Regular skin checks save lives. Learning the facts, monthly skin checks and annual visits are also your tools to leverage against the ever-increasing rates of skin cancer.