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ABC's of melanoma
Melanoma is a less common, but more dangerous form of skin cancer. It develops from the melanocytes, the skin's pigment-producing cells.

What are the symptoms of melanoma?
Look for a mole, birthmark or other skin spot that differs in any way from the others on your body. Experts use the "ABCDE rule" to help self-examination of your moles:

  • Asymmetry - If you compare the two halves, they are different in shape.
  • Border - The border is irregular, not smooth.
  • Color - The spot has varying colors, not one consistent shade.
  • Diameter - Smaller is generally better. Look for moles that are a quarter-inch in diameter or larger.
  • Evolving - Look for any change in size, shape color or other characteristics.

ABC's of melanoma

How is melanoma diagnosed?
A doctor can usually recognize melanoma, but to confirm the diagnosis, a biopsy is necessary. In many cases, the biopsy is also the treatment, as the entire mole or growth is removed.

What are the treatments for melanoma?
The melanoma will be surgically removed. This is often a simple procedure done in the doctor's office. The tissue will be sent to a lab for biopsy. Sometimes, a Mohs Micrographic Surgery is done. The doctor removes one small layer at a time, each of which is examined microscopically. The process continues until a cancer-free section is examined. This option is especially useful in places like the face or other highly visible areas, or other places on the body where precision is more important. If the melanoma has spread to other areas, affected lymph nodes may need to be removed. Chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy and immunotherapy may be done.

What are the risk factors for melanoma?
Prolonged sun exposure, especially a history of sunburns, is a risk factor, as is the use of tanning beds. People with fair complexions are at higher risk than are people with darker skin. Having a large number of moles is also a risk factor. If you have a family history of skin cancer, you are at higher risk. Children should be examined frequently if they are part of a family that is melanoma-prone.

What are some additional resources for learning about melanoma?
If you or your loved one is facing melanoma, CalvertHealth has a whole range of services designed to help you so you never take this journey alone. Please talk to your CalvertHealth provider, your Nurse Navigator, or check the service pages for information about treatments, services and support groups.
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