This came from Hannibal Regional Hospital and the James E. Cary Cancer Center:

Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of all skin cancers, yet it results in most skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). For the year 2011, the ACS estimates there will be about 70,230 new cases of melanoma, and about 8,790 deaths from the disease.

Skin cancer is cancer that starts in the skin cells. Skin cancers are divided into two major groups; nonmelanoma and melanoma.  Different skin cancers start in different cells of the skin.  Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.

If you are concerned you may have Melanoma schedule, an appointment with your doctor.  Your doctor will check your skin and look at the size, shape, color, and texture of any suspicious areas.  If your doctor thinks you might have skin cancer, a piece of skin will be removed and sent to a lab for examination under a microscope. This is called a skin biopsy. There are different types of skin biopsies. All or part of the growth will be removed.  A sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy may be done in some people with melanoma to see if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.  Once melanoma has been diagnosed, CT scans or other types of x-ray tests may be done to see if the cancer has spread.  “Skin cancer, including melanoma, is curable if found and treated early.” explains Dr. Susan Meidl, Dermatologist with the Hannibal Clinic.

Surgery is needed to treat melanoma. The skin cancer and some surrounding tissue will be removed. How much skin is removed depends on how deep the melanoma has grown.  If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, these lymph nodes may also be removed. Treatment is more difficult when the melanoma has spread to other organs. When it spreads to other organs, it usually cannot be cured. Treatment involves shrinking the skin cancer and making you as comfortable as possible.

In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the James E. Cary Cancer Center will be offering free skin cancer screenings on the Hannibal Medical Campus during May.  To schedule your appointment for a free skin cancer screening contact James E Cary Cancer Center at 573-406-1642.

For more information visit the Health Library tab on carycancercenter.org.