Melanoma, also known as malignant is a type of cancer that develops from the pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes. Melanomas typically occur in the skin, but may rarely occur in the mouth, intestines, or eye (uveal melanoma). Though yearly skin exams by your physician, and routine self-exam done at home can help, the only accurate way to diagnosis melanoma is with a biopsy. During the biopsy, all or part of the suspicious lesion is removed, and a pathologist examines the sample. If you receive a melanoma diagnosis, the next step is to determine the stage of the cancer, which will determine how it will be treated. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer because it can rapidly spread to the lymphatic system and internal organs. Approximately one person dies from melanoma every hour. With early detection and proper treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is almost 100 percent. Once it spreads, the cure rate drops.
Treatment options may include:
- Surgery to remove affected lymph nodes.
- Chemotherapy, which uses drugs intravenously, in pill form or both so that it travels throughout your body to destroy cancer cells.
Chemotherapy can also be administered in a vein in your arm or leg in a procedure called isolated limb perfusion. During this procedure, blood in your arm or leg is cut off from traveling to other areas of your body, temporarily giving the drugs the ability to travel directly to the area around the melanoma saving the other parts of the body
- Radiation therapy that uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells.
- Biological therapy that boosts your immune system to help your body fight cancer. Side effects of these treatments are similar to those of the flu, including chills, fatigue, fever, headache and muscle aches.
- Targeted therapy that uses medications designed to target specific vulnerabilities in cancer cells. Side effects may include skin problems, fever, chills and dehydration.