Most cancers get their names based on the part of the body they invade. For example, lung cancer develops in the lungs, liver cancer in the liver, colon cancer on the large intestine, and so on. There are some types that don’t directly adopt this naming system. A good example is leukemia, which is cancer of the blood. Another example is melanoma, which is cancer of the skin.
The difference between melanoma and the other two types of skin cancer is that the former develops in melanocytes. These are cells that produce melanin, the substance that gives pigment to eyes, hair and mostly the skin. Most melanocytes occur in the epidermis but are also found in the uvea tract in eyes and mucosal membranes in body cavities and tracts.
Any body tissue or organ that contains melanocytes can be affected by melanoma. Since melanin protects from UV poisoning, excess doses of UV radiation are suspected to be melanoma on skin and even acral lentiginous melanoma causes.
Melanoma in mouth (oral) symptoms and treatments
Melanoma in the mouth is also commonly referred to as oral melanoma. It originates in the squamous mucosa basal layer. In this layer, melanocytes are significantly less than basal cells. The disease accounts for about 5% of all melanomas and about 1.5% of all tumors that develop in neck and head areas.
Most oral melanomas tend to be asymptomatic. Oral mucosal melanoma symptoms that may occur include a dark, brown, blue or white spot in the mouth. It is likely that the spot will be multicolored. Some melanomas begin in form of nodules or small lumps.
Commonly affected areas are the gums and palate. 80% of oral melanomas occur in these areas. Ill-fitting dentures are reported to be possible causes or risk factors of oral melanoma. When signs show up in tongue, mandible or the linings of mouth and cheeks, they are very likely going to be metastatic.
Melanoma oral lesions, lumps or spots are usually caught when they are 1 mm thick or larger. Sometimes, there will be ulceration but with little or no pain.
Prognosis, diagnosis and treatment
Prognosis is always best for in situ tumors and depends on the stage of the tumor. Nodular melanoma prognosis is usually poor. Oral melanomas are grouped in three stages. Stage 1 is for tumors which have not spread. Stage 2 is for tumors which have spread to local lymph nodes. Stage 3 is for tumors that have spread to distant organs.
Physical examination and biopsy are commonly used to confirm diagnosis. During physical examination, the doctor will check for signs such as multicolored lesions and bleeding ones. Biopsy involves extracting a small sample and testing it in the lab.
Treatment usually involves surgery to remove the tumor. Afterwards, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be used to ensure complete removal of malignant cells.
Melanoma in ear symptoms and treatments
Melanoma in the ear is not common. It only accounts for about 3% of all melanomas and about 15% of melanomas that develop in neck and head region. It has been recently found that more men are affected than women.
- Chronic ear pain
- Loss of hearing
- Discharge of fluids from the ear
- A lump inside ear
Diagnosis and treatment
Melanoma in the ear is often misdiagnosed or, worse, ignored. Patients usually seek medical attention by the time tumors have grown as thick as 3 mm.
Doctors use biopsies to confirm diagnosis. After that, imaging tests will be taken to check the thickness and location of the tumor.
Melanomas of the ear are usually removed with surgery. This may be followed by other treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapy especially for tumors that have spread. A team of professionals usually converge to set the melanoma treatment guidelines to be followed.
Melanoma on nose symptoms and treatments
Melanoma on the nose can be on the skin outside the nasal cavity or in mucosal membrane of the nasal cavity. The former is more common. In fact, melanoma on mucosal nasal cavity only accounts for less than 1% of all melanomas.
Outside the nose, symptoms will resemble those of an atypical mole. Such indication sinclude irregularity at borders, multiple colors and gradual change in physical features. Some melanomas on the nose can be elevated or appear as flat spots on the skin.
When it occurs inside the nose, symptoms will include swelling, nose bleeds and nasal block. Patients may also notice a lump inside the nose that doesn’t go away.
Diagnosis and treatments
Only a melanoma biopsy can correctly diagnose a melanoma inside the nose. Physical examination may help in case the melanoma occurs on skin outside the nose. Even in that case, however, a biopsy will still be necessary.
Treatment depends on the location and thickness of the tumor. Small tumors only require surgical removal and maybe several doses of radiotherapy. Melanoma in situ margins are first marked before surgery. If the doctor finds it necessary, chemotherapy drugs will also be prescribed. Tumors that have spread or are harder to completely remove with above treatments will require immunotherapy or targeted therapy. The former uses drugs to boost immune system. Targeted therapy uses drugs which targeted specific functions of cancer cells.
Melanoma on face symptoms, causes and treatments
Facial skin contains most melanocytes per unit area. It is also often exposed to direct sunlight when outdoors. These are some of the facts that make melanoma on face fairly common. It accounts for about 80% of all melanomas that occur in head and neck areas with most incidences reported on the cheeks.
Most patients will notice an evolving mole or blemish. Other early signs may include bleeding, ulceration and itchiness. Some melanomas are painful but most are not at first. The ABCDE rule can be used to identify early warning signs.
- Asymmetry – look for two halves of the blemish or mole that don’t mirror each other
- Borders – look for irregularly defined edges
- Color – look for multiple colors, mostly dark-brown with some blue
- Diameter – look for blemishes exceeding 2 mm in diameter and keeps increasing
- Evolving – look for moles that keep changing their physical features such as shape, size and texture
Most reports suggest that melanomas on face are encouraged by UV radiation. The sun is the most common source of UV rays although the same are produced by devices such as tanning beds. Other risk factors may include:
- Old age
- Genetic mutation
- Weakened immune system
- Dysplastic nevi syndrome
- Family history of melanomas
Diagnosis and treatment
There are many conditions that can cause blemishes or skin growths on face. This is one of the reasons why many melanomas on face are caught late. While physical examination is a useful diagnostic tool, only a biopsy can confirm diagnosis.
Treatment for facial melanomas is usually done with surgery. Other malignant melanoma treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy will be used if necessary.
Melanoma of the eye
Melanoma of the eye can develop on the uvea or conjunctiva. The uvea consists of iris, choroid and ciliary body.
When melanomas develop on the uvea, the choroid is mostly affected. This is the part of the eye that contains 80% of all blood vessels that nourish the eye. Due to the huge network of blood vessels, melanomas in this region tend to often spread to the liver. See pictures, images and more details on what is uveal melanoma.
- Seeing shadows and flashes
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Blurred vision
- Loss of vision
- Changes in shape or position of the iris
- A lump or spot on the white part of eye or iris
It is not known what exactly causes melanoma of the eye. There are reasons to associate it with UV radiation however.
Diagnosis and treatment
The following tests may be done to confirm diagnosis:
- Eye exam – use of a bright light or magnifying lens to view the inside of eye. Eye drops are used to dilate the eye prior to this test.
- Biopsy – a small tissue removed from the affected area to check for cancer cells in the lab.
- Ultrasound – sound waves are used to produce images of inside eye on an ultrasound monitor.
- Angiogram – a fluorescent dye is injected in the arm and mapped as it circulates in eye.
- Imaging tests – taken to show size, location and metastatic status of eye melanomas.
The following treatments are available:
- Surgery – excisional surgery to remove the tumor. For large or very painful tumors, surgery can be done to remove the entire eye, after which an artificial one is used for replacement.
- Chemotherapy – use of drugs to destroy fast dividing cells, mainly cancer cells.
- Radiotherapy – X-rays are used to destroy malignant tissues.
- Cryotherapy – use of a very cold substance to destroy unwanted cells.
- Immunotherapy – use of drugs to boost body’s capability to fight cancer cells.
Research as to what exactly causes melanoma is still underway. While some factors such as dysplastic nevi syndrome and UV radiation are thought to increase risk of developing the disease, there still lacks enough evidence to support the claim. The best prevention approach is to get any changing skin blemish or mole checked by a doctor. Also, learning more on what is melanoma may help.
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