What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a notoriously unpredictable and potentially fatal skin cancer. It’s frequently associated with excessive sun exposure at a young age or excessive sun exposure over a lifetime. Most patients who are cured of melanoma pursue surgery as part of their care.
Why Does It Matter?
Moles can be tricky, so it’s best to assess your risks. Melanoma can arise from existing moles, or from non-mole-bearing skin. Patients with many large, dark moles are at a greater risk of developing melanoma. The cancer frequently strikes blond haired and blue eyed, fair skinned Caucasians who have had extensive sun exposure in the teen and preteen era of their life. It’s becoming epidemic among young women who are using tanning booths.
What Do I Need To Do About It?
An experienced surgeon can evaluate the site for the type of operation that will effectively remove the melanoma. He or she can also determine if the cancer has spread elsewhere.
Where Can I Get Help?
At Cascade Hernia & Surgical Solutions at Meridian Surgery Center, we have 25 years of experience caring for patients with melanoma. Specializing in sentinel lymph node biopsy and wide excision of melanoma, we operate in an outpatient setting, leading to lower costs, less risk of wound infections, and more convenience for our patients.
Why Should I Pursue Surgery Now?
If you’re concerned that you might have melanoma, call Cascade Hernia & Surgical Solutions for an appointment today. Getting your surgery here means more convenience, privacy and individual attention at a lower cost than in a hospital setting. Ask your physician if you are a candidate for outpatient surgery.
Characteristics of an abnormal mole:
- Asymmetry: The mole has a border that is completely different than the other side.
- Borders: The border of the mole is indistinct or changing. A benign mole will generally have a relatively uniform border.
- Color: Any color change in a mole is suspicious for melanoma, which can be white, purple, red, black or brown.
- Diameter: Moles greater than 1 centimeter in diameter, particularly when associated with border characteristics or color changes, are highly suspicious for melanoma. Most melanomas begin smaller than 1 centimeter.
- Evaluation: If you have any moles that meet these criteria, you should check with your primary care giver or a dermatologist. If you receive a diagnosis of melanoma, you will need to seek surgical care.
What should a surgeon do?
A surgeon should pursue wide excision of the melanoma to ensure the best possible result.
Many times surgeons treat melanoma with an excision not wide enough or without evaluation of the sentinel lymph nodes. These steps are missed often for the sake of expediency or avoiding anesthetic. For melanomas greater than 0.8 millimeters in depth, it’s important to pursue wide excision and sentinel lymph node evaluation.
Melanoma can create satellite areas in the skin surrounding the original mole. It can also set up potato-like roots deep within the fat and below the original mole; so wide and deep excision to the underlying muscle need to be performed. For many areas of the body, it’s best to receive anesthesia for this surgery.
It’s also important for the surgeon to evaluate the possible spread of the melanoma. This involves an operation to search for a sentinel lymph node, which is the first location separate from the melanoma site where the cancer would spread. An experienced surgeon can find this lymph node using a radioactive tracer technique called a sentinel lymph node biopsy.