Although melanoma is much harder to treat after it spreads, it’s easily cured when it’s caught at an early stage. Peter Beitsch, MD, at Dallas Surgical Group has extensive experience treating melanoma, where his expertise in lymphatic mapping results in high cure rates with less extensive surgery. If you have been diagnosed with melanoma, call the office in Dallas or schedule a skin exam online.
Melanoma begins in skin cells called melanocytes after exposure to ultraviolet light damages their DNA. The damaged DNA triggers cellular mutation and uncontrolled cellular growth. Over time, the abnormal cells accumulate and form cancerous tumors.
Melanoma is highly treatable when it’s caught at an early stage. After it spreads to other parts of the body, however, it becomes much more difficult to treat. As a result, it’s responsible for more deaths than other types of skin cancer.
Your risk is influenced by the number of blistering sunburns you sustain in childhood, as well as sunburns later in life, and your cumulative exposure to ultraviolet light from natural sunlight and tanning beds. Other factors that increase your risk are fair skin, red or blond hair, and a personal or family history of melanoma.
Although melanoma can appear as a new, dark lesion on your skin, it typically develops from an existing mole. It’s important to pay attention to your moles, checking to see if they develop changes that are signs of cancer.
The ABCDE method is a good way to remember the warning signs of melanoma:
As soon as you notice any change in a mole, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist for a skin evaluation (if you don’t have one, Dallas Surgical Group works with many great dermatologists across the Metroplex and will find one for you!)
Like all skin cancers, the first line of treatment is to remove the melanoma along with some of the normal-appearing skin (called a wide excision) and to map the skin where the melanoma started and remove the lymph nodes that drain that skin - the sentinel lymph nodes. When melanoma spreads, it first goes to one of the closest lymph nodes — that’s the sentinel lymph node. Checking this node, as well as the margins around the excised mole, determines if the cancer has metastasized and determines if additional treatment is needed
Dr. Beitsch specializes in lymphatic mapping to identify the lymph nodes that drain the patch of skin where your cancer originated. This method reduces the number of lymph nodes that must be removed. As a result, the extent of your surgery is limited, yet you still have excellent results.
If your melanoma is in an early stage, excision is the only treatment you need. For more advanced cancers, you may need radiation or immunotherapy.
At the first sign of an unusual-looking mole, call your dermatologist or Dallas Surgical Group and we will find you one!