Understanding Malignant Melanoma

Understanding Malignant Melanoma

Melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, but it’s also the most serious. If caught early enough, before it spreads to other parts of your body, it’s completely curable.

Treatment involves surgical removal of malignant cells. Sometimes these areas can be relatively large and located in conspicuous places, such as on your face, chest, arms, and scalp. 

At The Aesthetic Surgery Center on the Upper East Side of New York, New York, our acclaimed plastic surgeon Elliott H. Rose, MD, works with several highly-trained dermatologists who specialize in melanoma treatment and surgery. He uses reconstructive techniques to minimize the appearance of scarring caused by melanoma and its treatment. 

Here’s what you should know about malignant melanoma so you can get the dermatological and cosmetic treatment you need.

What is malignant melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is when the melanocytes, the cells in the skin that give you pigment, start to grow irregularly. These irregular cells can spread to other areas of the body, including your organs, causing serious disease and even death. More than 106,000 new melanoma diagnoses are expected in 2021 and at least 7,000 people will die of melanoma in 2021. 

What are the signs of malignant melanoma?

Melanoma most often shows up on sun-exposed areas of the body, but can appear anywhere -- even between your toes or on your genitals. Watch for signs of changes in your skin, especially areas that have moles or brown spots. 

The acronym ABCDE helps you identify potentially cancerous cells. 

A is for asymmetry, as in the irregularly shaped sides of a mole or brown spot. 

B, or border, of the mole may appear scalloped, uneven, or notched. 

C stands for color. If your mole has multiple colors, like white, red, or blue, or it changes color, it’s of concern. 

D refers to the mole’s or brown spot’s diameter. If the lesion grows larger than the size of a pencil eraser, or about 6 millimeters, get it checked. 

E, or evolving, means you notice changes in the size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin. Changing symptoms, like bleeding, itching, or crusting, may also be a warning sign of melanoma.

If you have any suspicious lesions, contact a board-certified dermatologist immediately for evaluation and biopsy.

What is the treatment for malignant melanoma?

Treatment for malignant melanoma depends on whether or not the cancer has spread beyond the skin. If it has spread, you’ll be referred to an oncologist who can oversee your entire treatment.

If your cancer has not spread, the malignant lesion must be removed.

Dr. Rose works with qualified dermatologists who perform Mohs excision surgery, the gold standard when it comes to skin cancer treatment. A Mohs surgeon removes the cancer and a very small amount of surrounding tissue, layer by layer, and evaluates this tissue every step of the way. The methodical approach means your dermatologist can be 99% sure all cancerous cells are removed. 

Dr. Rose coordinates with your Mohs surgeon to reconstruct treated areas right after your surgery. We try to schedule your reconstruction the day of your Mohs excision to make it more convenient for you both in terms of your time and your body’s healing. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with melanoma, call our office to find out if you’re a candidate for reconstruction. We’ll help arrange an appointment with Dr. Rose, if appropriate, and coordinate your care with your dermatologist. 

Trust The Aesthetic Surgery Center with your cosmetic reconstruction needs. Contact our New York City office by phone to schedule a consultation or use the online tool to book your appointment. 

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