Plastic Surgery & Reconstructive Procedures

Skin Cancers / Melanoma

Skin Cancer
  • About

    Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in the skin cells – called melanocytes.

    Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found on the chest and back in men and on the legs in women. The face and neck are also common sites.

    About 68,130 new cases of melanoma are identified each year, with 8700 deaths.

    Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of all skin cancer but causes the most skin cancer deaths.

  • Risk Factors
    • Exposure To Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation:
      UV radiation can come from the sun or from tanning booths, and is a major risk factor for melanoma. Melanoma on the trunk, legs, and arms is associated with frequent sunburns, especially in childhood.
    • Moles (Nevi):
      Most moles or nevi are harmless, but having many of them can increase a person’s chance of developing melanoma. Dysplastic nevi (abnormal moles that look a little like normal moles to the naked eye but also a little like melanoma) can raise a person’s lifetime risk for developing melanoma to more than 10%.
    • Fair Skin And Hair, And Freckling:
      Melanoma risk is 10 times higher for light skin than for dark skin. Light-skinned people with red or blonde hair and fair skin that freckles or burns easily, are at increased risk of developing melanoma.
    • Family History:
      About 10% of melanoma patients have a history of the disease. The risk of melanoma is greater if one or more first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) have been diagnosed with a melanoma.
    • Age:
      Melanoma is more likely to occur in older people, but it is one of the most common cancers in people under age 30.
  • How does staging work

    Accurate Staging determines prognosis and the appropriate treatment.

    Survival rates are higher in those with early-stage melanoma.

    People with Stage IA and IB melanoma have the best 5-year survival rates, at up to 97%.

    Those with metastatic disease (Stage IV) have the lowest 5-year survival rate, at just 15%-20%.

  • How are stages defined

    Melanoma is a highly malignant type of skin cancer, identified by stages. A stage describes the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

    The stage is based on the thickness of the tumour, the mitotic rate, whether it is ulcerated (cracked, open), and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes and other organs in the body. Accurate Staging of the disease may help determine your prognosis and course of treatment.

    Melanoma is staged according to the TNM system and is based on the thickness of the tumour (T), whether the cancer cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes (N), and whether the cancer has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body (M)
    TNM combinations correspond to stages ranging from Stage 0 to IV

    • Stage 0
      Cancer has not spread beyond borders
    • Stages I, II, III
      Higher numbers mean more extensive disease: i.e., larger tumour size and/or spread of the cancer beyond the skin to lymph nodes
    • Stage IV
      Cancer has spread (metastasised) to other organs
  • Talk to Family

    Telling your family and friends about your melanoma can be difficult. However, it is important that they know what is going on.

    Explain the type of cancer that you have and the tests and treatments that may be needed.

    Explain that cancer is not contagious.

    You may not be able to take care of all of your household responsibilities when you are undergoing treatment, so it is important that you allow friends and family to help you. Be specific about what type of help you need.

    Seek help from your healthcare provider, minister or a counsellor if you feel overwhelmed.