Melanoma at intimate parts like Vagina (Vulva), Anus and Penis: Symptoms, Treatments

Much attention is directed towards cancers of the lungs, breasts, colon and prostate. These are not the only types of cancer that can develop, however. In fact, there are about 100 different types of diseases all of which can be classified as cancer. Among them is melanoma.

The reason some people have dark skin while others have fair skin is due to presence of melanin. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin will appear. This can also be said of hair and eyes. Cells that produce melanin are called melanocytes. Most of them are located in the epidermis but also occur in the uvea tract in eyes and mucosal membranes.

Cancer occurs when cells start dividing very rapidly and fail to die naturally. As a result, a lump develops as the functionless cells collect. When this abnormality occurs in melanocytes, melanoma develops. It accounts for about 15% of all skin cancers. Though rare, it is considered most aggressive of all skin cancers.

The disease mostly develops in areas exposed to sun such as the neck, face, legs and scalp. It however can also develop on the genitals and anus. Common symptoms of melanoma share close resemblance with that of an atypical mole.

Vaginal melanoma causes, symptoms and treatments

Vagina is the tract that extends from vulva to cervix. It is lined by a mucous membrane which contains melanocytes. Vaginal melanoma originates in these cells.

Symptoms

  • Pain when having sex or after
  • Itchiness
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Lump that doesn’t go away

Some melanomas in the vagina are asymptomatic. They may be found during screening tests.

Causes

The actual cause of malignancy in mucous membrane melanocytes is only vaguely understood. Risk factors include:

  • Products that chemically irritate the vagina
  • A condition that causes chronic inflammation. It is often caused by diseases such as arthritis, lupus and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
  • Viral infections
  • Gene mutation

Treatments

Treatments for this disease depend on factors such as the thickness of the tumor, where exactly it is located, whether it has spread and general health status. In most cases, the tumor will be located and removed with surgery. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be used to ensure complete removal. If malignant cells have spread, other options such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy will be considered.

Vulvar melanoma causes, symptoms and treatments

The vulva consists of female sex organs located outside the vagina. Such include labia, pubis, clitoris and vaginal opening. Vulvar melanoma is either cutaneous or mucosal.

Cutaneous vulvar melanoma is basically the type we are used to. It develops on the upper skin layer. Parts of the vulva such as the pubis and labia majora are most likely to be affected. A good example is a spitzoid melanoma in adults which forms an enlarging nodule on skin.

Mucosal vulvar melanoma develops in the soft linings such as of the inner labia minora. It can also begin in the linings of the vaginal opening.

Symptoms

Cutaneous melanoma often appears in form of an irregular or evolving mole. It may also begin as a discolored spot or patch on skin.

Mucosal melanoma will produce much similar symptoms such as when it occurs in vagina. Such include bleeding, vaginal discharge and pain before/after intercourse.

Causes

Malignancy in melanocytes is attributed to UV radiation. Common sources of UV are the sun and devices such as tanning beds.

As for melanoma in mucosal melanocytes, the risk factors identified in the case of vaginal melanoma may play a part.

Treatments

A doctor will first perform a diagnosis. If confirmed, an excisional margin will be marked and the tumor cut out afterwards. It works very effectively for a small melanoma. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are often used in combination with surgery. Recently, other treatments have been developed. Such include use of drugs that boost the immune system’s capability to fight cancer cells. Another type of drugs have also been introduced which specifically target cancer cells. Experts are working on some form of vaccines that will hopefully be available for melanoma treatment in the future.

Melanoma on penis causes, symptoms and treatments

The penile shaft and glans are the main parts of the penis. When melanoma on the penis develops, it will mostly involve these parts. It is not impossible however for malignancy to also develop in the soft lining of the urethra or urinary tract.

Symptoms

If melanoma on the penis develops on shaft or glans, it will cause noticeable early signs. Most will revolve around a skin growth, spot or patch that doesn’t resemble a regular mole, much like you would except of a melanoma on arm or face. Normal moles have defined borders, two equal halves, consistent color, not larger than a pencil eraser and don’t keep changing their physical features.

If melanoma develops in the mucous membrane of the urethra or urinary tract, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Pain when and after sex
  • Bleeding
  • Discharge
  • Itchiness
  • A bump that doesn’t go away

Note that these are not always symptoms of melanoma in the penis. There are many diseases and conditions which may cause almost similar symptoms. A doctor is the only one who can confirm diagnosis.

Causes

  • Exposure to radiation
  • Chemical irritants
  • Viral infections

Treatments

Melanomas that occur on the penile shaft and glans can be removed with excisional surgery. Before that, imaging tests will be performed to show the thickness of the tumor.

Melanomas that have spread or located in areas too delicate for surgery can be removed with radiotherapy and chemotherapy drugs. In fact, these two treatments often accompany surgical removal.

Other treatments such as use of targeted therapy drugs and immune boosting drugs may also be considered. In most cases, a team of professionals converge to discuss the best treatment option depending on the status of the tumor.

Anal melanoma symptoms, causes and treatments

Anal melanoma is not common. When it occurs, the region between normal skin and mucous anal membrane is mostly affected.

Symptoms

  • bleeding
  • itchiness
  • changed bowel habits
  • lump that doesn’t go away

Anal melanoma often misdiagnosed for hemorrhoids. This makes it a very dangerous disease. Apart from major changes in bowel habits, the other symptoms can be associated with a number of conditions that develop in the anal region.

Causes

It is thought that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the main risk factor for mucosal melanoma in the anus.

Treatments

Just as in the case of vaginal melanoma, surgery is the main treatment option. Before surgery, a biopsy will be taken to confirm diagnosis. This involves extracting a small tissue from the affected area and checking for signs of cancer cells under a microscope. Once the tumor has been removed, the doctor may prescribe chemotherapy drugs or radiotherapy dosages.

It is often that anal melanoma spreads before it is caught. In this case, surgery alone will not do the job. In fact, it may be required that local lymph nodes that have been invaded be removed too. Other than surgery, patients may be treated with drugs that target the binding ability of cancer cells. Healthy patients may also be in a position to respond well to drugs that boost body’s natural ability to identify and destroy melanoma cells. Immunotherapy is rapidly been incorporated in choroidal melanoma treatment therapies.

Staging and prognosis

Melanoma in the genitals is not common. For this reason, a simple three-stage system for staging. This is unlike uveal melanoma staging.

Melanoma prognosis is best for tumors that have not spread or stage 1 tumors. Survival rate is also highest for in situ tumors. Stage 2 indicates tumors that have invaded the lymphatic system and probably local lymph nodes. At stage 3, tumors have spread to distant organs.

Prevention

There is so much to learn about melanoma and cancer in general. You can start with topics such as what is malignant melanoma and what is metastatic melanoma. Once you have gained significant knowledge on this disease, it will be much easier to make informed decision regarding how to prevent the same.

A risk factor is not a guaranteed cause of a certain disease. Therefore, presence or absence of the risk factors identified above may have little or no impact on whether melanoma will develop or not.

Generally, ensure to check with your doctor any time a condition whose origin you can’t explain persists. This is especially if a painless or bleeding lump is involved.

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