A 23-year-old student pilot went to have his eyes examined for a routine eye exam before obtaining his pilot’s license.
During the examination, an unusual freckle was found during the dilation of the eyes.
A 55-year-old man had a brown warty spot on his face. He had a history of other brown wart spots on his chest and back, but it seemed to be growing quickly.
A 12-year-old girl had a small pink bump on her left cheek that would not go away. She had a history of acne and thought the spot was an acne scar that persisted.
May is National Melanoma Month. The three patients described above were all diagnosed with melanoma after the lesions were biopsied by a dermatologist.
Melanoma can affect people of all ages and appear anywhere on the body. It can come in many different colors, shapes and sizes.
Even though melanoma is not common in children and teens, they can still get melanoma. Melanoma can sometimes be seen in a newborn baby.
Patients with darker complexions such as African Americans and East Indian descent may develop melanoma.
Malignant melanoma is the most serious of the skin cancers.
The other two common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Melanoma can appear anywhere there is skin, such as the scalp, fingernails or toenails, genitals, lining of the mouth, and eyes.
In adults, ultraviolet light can cause melanoma to develop on the skin or make the mole more likely to develop into melanoma. UV light can come from the sun or from tanning beds.
If a child has melanoma, the cause is usually not the sun. There is an increased risk of melanoma in children born with large brown or black spots, called nevi.
Melanoma can even develop in an area where there is no stain.
The most common areas in women to develop melanoma are the legs. In men, melanoma is more likely to develop on the back.
There are three different categories of melanoma: cutaneous, mucous (throat, mouth, vagina, anus) and ocular (eyes).
Cutaneous melanoma is the most common of the three categories of melanoma.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that melanoma is a dark brown spot. Melanomas can be brown or pink or white in color. They can be flat or raised. Or can develop in a pre-existing location. Itching or bleeding can also be signs that a place is changing.
If you notice a change in one place, be sure not to treat it with over-the-counter medications or medication from a friend or family member.
Sometimes, if the lesion is altered by other treatments, it can be difficult to correctly diagnose the stain with a biopsy because it can change the appearance of cells under the microscope.
After having the stain assessed in a dermatologist’s office and a biopsy taken, a treatment plan can be developed for the lesion.
If the lesion is benign, no treatment will be necessary. If it is malignant, treatment will depend on whether the lesion is localized or metastatic.
Different biopsies to confirm the diagnosis of melanoma are a shave biopsy or a punch biopsy.
A new way to help with the diagnostic process is a no-scalpel technique called DermTech. This new technology is basically a series of stickers that you put on the suspicious mole. The mechanism of its action extracts RNA and DNA from lesion cells.
Treatment for melanoma depends on its invasion. If skin cancer is diagnosed early and confined to the top layers of the skin, then it is called “in situ”.
If the lesion is deeper in the skin, it is considered invasive.
All types of melanoma require immediate attention. There is a better prognosis with treatment when caught early.
Also, be sure to pack your sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, sun clothes that contain UVA / UVB protection, and sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Be consistent each year by choosing a time to do your comprehensive annual skin exam. Many patients choose their birthday month.
Susan Hammerling-Hodgers, a member of the National Psoriasis Foundation, is PA-C (Certified Physician Assistant) and MPAS (Master of Physician Assistant Studies) and works at Brevard Skin and Cancer in the offices of Merritt Island, Titusville and Rockledge.