Melanoma isn’t the most common form of skin cancer, but it’s generally the deadliest: Left undetected, melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of your body, including your lymphatic system and internal organs. Fortunately, regular skin cancer screenings can help you catch melanoma early, giving you a much greater chance of treating it successfully. From her dermatology and aesthetic medicine practice in Salida and Crestone, Colorado, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Debra Irizarry provides surgical treatment for patients with melanoma. To find out more, call or book your appointment online today.
Unrepaired DNA damage resulting from exposure to ultraviolet light, either from the sun or a tanning bed, can trigger mutations in your skin cells that prompt them to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors known as melanoma.
While anyone can develop melanoma, certain factors can increase your risk, including:
Melanoma may appear suddenly and without warning, or it may also evolve from an existing mole. Left untreated, it can spread to your lymphatic system and even your internal organs, making it much more challenging to treat effectively.
Melanoma diagnosis begins with a careful, thorough skin examination, typically with a device that lights and magnifies the skin for better viewing.
Dr. Irizarry looks for the ABCDEs of atypical moles, which are the most common signs of melanoma:
If Dr. Irizarry finds a questionable spot, she removes some or all of it so it can be biopsied in a lab. Melanoma cannot be officially diagnosed without a biopsy.
The overriding goal of an effective melanoma treatment plan is to completely remove the cancer. This usually is done surgically, either through general excision or with Mohs surgery.
Excision surgery involves numbing your skin, then cutting out the melanoma and some of the surrounding skin, also known as the margin area. Excision surgery is usually an in-office procedure.
Treatment protocol for melanoma that has spread beyond the skin includes chemotherapy and radiation therapy.