Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that affects men, women, and children. While rare, the disease develops in more than 106,000 people in the United States each year.
To protect yourself from melanoma, it’s important that you have routine skin evaluations with an experienced dermatologist like Lisa Hitchins, MD, PA. Dr. Hitchens also provides the comprehensive care you need if you have melanoma or other types of skin cancer at Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston.
Your risk factors for melanoma
Melanoma is a type of fat-growing cancer that can spread to other parts of your body if not promptly treated. The cancer first develops on areas of your skin that get the most sun exposure, especially if you have a history of sunburns. Tanning beds can also contribute to melanoma.
Other factors that can increase your risk for melanoma include having a family history of the disease and having a large number of moles on your body, typically 100 or more.
Warning signs of skin cancer
Checking your skin every month is a great way to reduce your risk for melanoma complications. You should check your skin routinely for noticeable discolorations, lesions, and changes in your moles.
There’s an easy-to-remember checklist Dr. Hitchins encourages you to use during a skin assessment.
A – Asymmetric
Check the asymmetry of your moles to ensure the two sides match.
B – Borders
Look for borders that are uneven, scalloped, or notched.
C – Colors
Check for changes in the color of your skin that vary in tone, hue, and shade, usually different shades of brown and black, blue, red, or white.
D – Diameter
Moles that are larger in diameter than a pencil eraser might be an indication of melanoma.
E – Evolving
Monitor your skin for evolving changes in the shape, color, elevation, or size of your moles. Healthy moles won’t bleed, itch, crust over, or experience other changes.
Evaluating your treatment options for melanoma
If you have early signs of melanoma, Dr. Hitchins can design a treatment plan to meet your needs. She offers in-office surgical services to remove cancerous tissue from your skin for further evaluation. Surgical removal of the lesion or affected mole is also the standard of treatment in early-stage melanoma.
After removing cancerous tissue, Dr. Hitchens might recommend additional treatments to prevent the recurrence and spread of melanoma. These treatments might include:
Radiation therapy is a nonsurgical procedure that involves directing beams of radiation at the cancerous tissue to destroy it.
Chemotherapy uses oral or injectable medications to kill cancer cells in your skin and wherever they’ve spread in your body.
Immunotherapy uses medications to stimulate your own immune system. This helps your body recognize cancer cells more efficiently, so your immune system can destroy them.
Gene therapy is an advanced treatment that addresses defective genes contributing to cancer. The goal is to replace the defective copy with a healthy one to prevent the recurrence of melanoma.
While learning you have melanoma can be overwhelming, the good news is that with early treatment, you can reduce your risk for life-threatening complications and premature death.
To schedule a routine skin evaluation, call Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston or book an appointment online today.