Melanoma is a disease in which cancer cells form in a certain type of cell, called a melanocyte. Melanocytes are the cells that color the skin. melanocytes. Melanoma is sometimes referred to as cutaneous or malignant melanoma. Although melanoma tumors can be tan, pink or white, most are black or brown.
Melanomas can develop anywhere on the skin. The face and neck are the most common areas for melanomas. Although melanoma is significantly less common than squamous and basal cell skin cancers, it is more dangerous as it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body if it is not caught early.
What Are the Symptoms of Melanoma?
According to the American Cancer Society, the most important warning sign of melanoma is an existing mole or spot on the skin that is changing in shape, color or size. This spot may look vastly different from the other spots on your skin. A new lesion on the skin can also indicate melanoma. If you notice any of these warning signs, see your physician at once.
The ABCDE rule is an easy-to-remember guide to help you identify melanoma. Look for:
- Asymmetry: A birthmark or mole that is not symmetrical. That means that one-half does not match the other.
- Border: Look for edges that are blurred, notched, ragged or otherwise irregular.
- Color: The color may include different shades of black or brown. It will usually not have the same color all over. It may sometimes appear with patches of blue, white or pink.
- Diameter: Any spot or mole larger than about ¼ inch should be checked by a physician.
- Evolving: A spot or mole that is changing in color, shape or size.
What Does Melanoma in Situ Mean?
Melanoma in situ refers to stage 0 melanoma, which is the very earliest stage of Melanoma. “In situ” means that the cancer cells are confined to the top layer of the skin and have not spread anywhere else in the body. In stage 0 melanoma, the cancer cells have not yet started to grow into the deeper layers of the skin or become invasive.
What Is the Outlook for Melanoma in Situ?
When melanoma is found and treated when it is still in the in situ stage, the outlook is excellent. It can be cured if it is cut out completely. According to research, with appropriate treatment, patients with Stage 0 melanoma have an overall survival rate of 99 to 100 percent over a period of 5 to 10 years. This is because lymphatic channels and blood, which are not present in the top layer of the skin, are needed for melanoma to spread. However, melanoma can spread and turn into invasive cancer if it is not removed with appropriate surgery. Therefore, it is critical that melanoma in situ be removed along with a small portion of normal skin. It is also important to learn about preventative measures that you can take that will reduce the risk of another melanoma in the future.
What Is the Treatment for Melanoma in Situ?
Melanoma in situ must be treated surgically. The surgery for stage 0 melanoma is usually done by a board certified surgeon on an outpatient basis. If you have a melanoma in situ removed, you may need another operation, to ensure a wider margin and reduce the chance of the melanoma coming back at the original site. During the procedure, healthy skin will be removed from around the original lesion to ensure that all of the melanoma is gone. This will make the scar larger than before.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery, one of the most effective techniques for removing squamous and basal cell carcinomas, is being increasingly used as an alternative to standard surgery to treat melanoma in situ. Traditional surgical techniques involve estimating how deep the roots of the skin cancer go. This means that healthy skin may need to be removed. Mohs surgery consists of removing one thin layer of tissue at a time. Once each layer is removed, the physician examines the cells under the microscope for the presence of cancer cells. If melanoma cells are present in the margins, more tissue is removed until the margins are cancer-free. Mohs surgery is advantageous when it comes to treating melanoma as it can eliminate the guesswork in the removal of skin cancers. It helps physicians pinpoint the cancer cells location when it is invisible to the naked eye. This means that less healthy skin has to be removed and the surgeon can ensure all of the cancer cells are eliminated.