Melanoma (Skin Cancer) in Dallas, TX

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What is Melanoma?

Of the three skin cancers — basal, squamous, and melanoma — the latter is the most dangerous. Thankfully, when melanoma is caught early cure rates are very good. When detected late, melanoma can often be fatal. Melanoma growths occur when the pigmented cells in the lower layer of your skin's epidermis, called melanocytes, undergo DNA damage often resulting from sun/UV exposure. As a result, mutations in the form of genetic defects develop. These defects allow the melanocyte cellss to multiply and form malignant tumors which incubate. They can look like moles or occasionally develop in preexisting moles. Most are black or brown but can be more difficult to spot if they are skin colored, pink, or white. Early diagnosis and treatment are paramount with melanoma. At our Dallas, TX facility, Skin Cancer Consultants has a team of board-certified medical professionals, lead by dual-trained Mohs surgeon and procedural dermatologist Dr. Thornwell Parker, trained and ready to diagnose and treat melanoma.

Warning Signs

Since melanoma can be difficult to identify, educating yourself about the warning signs can help you stay ahead. First, memorizing the ABCD & Es of skin cancer is a helpful tool. These are: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variation, Diameter > 6 millimeters, and Evolving or changing. So if you spot a mole or freckle which is shaped irregularly, with rough borders, different colors, and/or bigger than a pencil eraser in width, promptly contact Skin Care Consultants for an immediate examination, as time is of the essence.  We don't expect patients to always be able to diagnose themselves, and Tthere are many normal or benign skin lesions that can share some of these concerning features.  The most important feature for you to watch for is anything that is growing or changing.   In addition, if you note that a site that was previously treated for skin cancer begins to look different, it is time to schedule an appointment.

Causes and Risks

Having a family history of melanoma in a primary relative (parent, sibling, child) also increases your risk for melanoma, as there are some genetic links. Those with an immediate family member who has had melanoma have a 50% greater chance of developing it than others without immediate family history. If you have fair or red hair, or blue, green, or grey eyes, and have had multiple sunburns, excessive sun exposure or have tanned in tanning beds, your risk increases substantially. Education and information about moles and skin conditions can help increase awareness. In terms of moles, know that many people have normal small, brown moles. However, not everyone has atypical moles (dysplastic nevi) which can be a risk factor for development of melanoma. Becoming familiar with these similarities and differences could be paramount to your health.

Treatment Options

Our treatment of melanoma is highly dependent on the staging of the melanoma.  The most important initial piece of staging information is the measured thickness of the melanoma, traditionally measured in millimeters, also called the Breslow Thickness.  The best category is those less than 0.75 mm and the most serious category is those thicker than 4 mm.   Thin melanomas often only need surgical removal to achieve very high cure rates.  This can be achieved with Mohs surgery or with traditional surgical excision.  Thicker melanomas may benefit from additional diagnostic studies such as a sentinel lymph node biopsy, blood work, and a PET scan or CT scan.  Treatment may also include more aggressive surgical removal, additional lymph node removal, radiation, and chemotherapy.  Thankfully, there have been major advances in chemotherapy for melanoma over the past few years.  For thin melanomas Mohs surgery, a popular option for basal and squamous cell carcinomas, is also becoming the go-to procedure for treatment. Mohs technology has benefited from advances allowing microscopic melanoma cells to be identified more easily using a special laboratory technique called immunostaining, which helps highlight melanoma cells under the microscope.  

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Research and modern advances in melanoma treatments continue each year, with the ultimate goal of transforming the issue from a deadly disease to a manageable skin condition. In the meantime, prevention and awareness are key with this and any kind of skin cancer. Reevaluate your current skin care routine to ensure that it includes the use of sunscreen and avoid overexposure to the sun. In addition, if you notice any of the above-mentioned changes to a freckle or a mole, it is imperative that you contact Skin Cancer Consultants to schedule an examination.

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