How to scan your skin ???
Stand in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror and, using a handheld mirror when needed, check your entire skin surface, including scalp, genitals, nail beds, soles and palms. A partner may be helpful, especially in examining the scalp. On a paper-doll-like figure, mark where you have moles and their sizes; use this for comparison from one exam to the next. Unsure if a spot is a mole or a freckle? Remember that although both are often flat, moles tend to be darker and more distinct than freckles, which tend to clump on the face, forearms and upper back, and usually fade during the winter.
Common sites for melanoma in women are the lower legs and the back between the shoulder blades areas where sun exposure has usually been high. What you’re looking for during your self-exam: any pigmented areas of skin that have one or more of the following characteristics.
Asymmetry If you draw a line through a normal mole, both halves will match closely; not so with a melanoma.
Border irregularity The edges of a melanoma tend to be bumpy and irregular.
Color Melanomas usually are multicolored, with shades of black, blue, brown and/or red.
Diameter Most melanomas are greater than six millimeters in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser).
I n August 19,2014, Lori Szczecina ’ noticed that a small mole on the side of her right foot had grown larger and changed color. She knew from a college anatomy class that changes in a mole are often a sign of cancer. Sure enough, when Szczecina went to her doctor, he told her she had melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer that many young women don’t take seriously. But it’s all too serious for 25-year-old Szczecina: In the past five years, the disease has spread from the mole on her foot to her liver and bones.
Though melanoma was once rare, it is growing faster than any other cancer in the United States and worldwide.
In 2014 more than 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed disease, and one quarter of those cases will be in those age 39 and under. In fact, melanoma is the most common cancer in women age 25 to 29 and the second most common (after breast cancer) in women 30 to 34. More than 7,000 women and men will die from this cancer this year.
“It’s not yet known why the incidence of melanoma is increasing so rapidly,” says Yale University dermatologist Jean Bolog-nia, M.D. Research has shown a correlation between sunburn and melanoma, but in roughly one to two percent of cases, tumors develop in the mouth, the sinuses, inside the nose or in the vagina or rectum areas of the body that are never exposed to the sun.
Melanoma is a tumor of melanocytes cells that produce melanin, which gives skin its color and protects it from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Though everyone has roughly the same density of melanocytes in their skin, fair-skinned people produce less melanin and are at higher risk for melanoma than those with darker skin. The cancer often arises in an existing mole (moles are basically pouches of melanocytes, and most are harmless), but in the majority of cases it appears on the skin as a new, pigmented spot or bump.
(which only affect the skin’s upper layers and are no thicker than one thirty-second of an inch), no other treatment is required, though follow-up screenings for new tumors should be done every four to six months and continue for life.
In Szczecina’s case, the surgery was extensive and required a skin graft. Unfortunately, she is among the 15 to 20 percent of melanoma patients whose cancer isn’t checked by surgery. Tumors that, like hers, have penetrated further into the skin may begin metastasizing traveling from their original location through the lymph system and blood vessels to other body sites. Melanoma favors certain vital organs liver, lungs and brain so once it has spread, it is life-threatening.
In April 2014, two and a half years after her surgery, Szczecina discovered a lump in her groin that was found to
A thin melanoma, left, which affects only the skin’s upper layers, can be surgically removed by a dermatologist. A melanoma that has penetrated further, fight, can also be removed but may require additional treatment.
Like most cancers, melanoma can be cured if it’s detected early. The initial treatment is surgical removal, which can often be performed under local anesthesia by a dermatologist. Depending on the thickness of the tumor, surgery will result in a scar that ranges from half an inch to two inches in width. For thin melanomas contain melanoma. Following surgery to remove 11 lymph nodes, one of which was cancerous, she was given injections of interferon to stop the cancer from spreading. (Interferon is a chemical produced by the body that enhances the immune system and may also directly attack cancer cells.) But five months later, headaches and a bruised feeling in her abdomen sent Szczecina back to her doctor.
Tests revealed that the melanoma had spread to her liver and bones, even into her skull. “I couldn’t rest my head on anything, it hurt so much,” she says. Because conventional chemotherapy and radiation are only minimally effective when melanoma is so pervasive, Szczecina opted to try an experimental treatment called biochemotherapy, given by melanoma specialist Antonio Buzaid, M.D., at the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston…