Melanomas of the head and neck areas are most common. This may be because the areas are often exposed to direct sunlight and because they have more melanocytes. Regardless, melanoma can develop in any part of the skin or body that contains the pigment-producing cells. This includes hands, arms, legs, feet and nail plate or nail matrix.
Prognosis is often good when melanoma occurs in the extremities. This is unless the disease spreads to lymph nodes or distant organs. See malignant melanoma definition for more details. When that happens, prognosis is very poor. In fact, treatment is usually aimed at shrinking the resulting tumors rather than removing them entirely.
Melanoma on hand symptoms, causes and treatments
The two most common types of melanoma on the hand are acral lentiginous and subungual melanoma.
Acral lentiginous melanoma
This type begins as a discolored flat spot or patch on sole of foot or palms. It is often slow-growing and can in fact take months or years before becoming invasive. The EBCDEs can be used to differentiate normal blemishes from malignant ones. Acral lentiginous melanoma pictures may also be of some help.
This subtype develops in nail matrix, nail plate or skin surrounding the nail matrix. It is often characterized by a longitudinal streak perpendicular to the nail bed.
Early signs of subungual melanoma can easily be mistaken for a blood blister. The main difference is that blood blisters develop after an injury or a form of trauma. The cancer often shows up in the thumb or big toe.
It is not clear what exactly causes melanoma on the hand. It however seems to be associated with UV radiation and sun poisoning. Subungual melanoma doesn’t share this characteristic.
Excision surgery is the usual treatment of choice. For subungual melanoma, surgery may also be done to amputate the affected finger. Nowadays, amputation is usually done at the joint closest to the fingernail.
Melanoma on leg types, symptoms and treatments
The types of melanoma that may develop on the leg include nodular melanoma, superficial spreading melanoma, amelanotic melanoma and lentigo maligna melanoma.
This is the most invasive type of all. It often appears as a red nodule on the skin. Once the nodule has developed, it rapidly spreads into the dermis and much deeper into the skin. Once it reaches lymphatic or blood vessels, it spreads to other body organs. This happens in a very short timeline. Prompt nodular melanoma treatment is usually very essential.
Superficial spreading melanoma
This type is not very invasive. It tends to spread across the skin before invading other parts. The ABCDEs can be used to identify suspicious patches or blemishes on skin.
This is a commonly misdiagnosed type. Affected melanocytes make less melanin, making amelanotic melanomas almost colorless or fleshy. This is one of the factors that worsen spitzoid melanoma prognosis.
Lentigo maligna melanoma
Of all the types, this is the least invasive. It grows slowly and is more common in older people. Early signs revolve around a mole or blemish that grows in size, has multiple colors and with irregular shape.
Treatment depends on diagnosis reports and stage of the tumor. For small or tumors that haven’t left the local position, surgical excision and several doses of radiation will do. Chemotherapy may also be used to ensure complete remove of malignant cells. The latter options are also considered when surgery may not be the best option such as in ocular melanoma treatment.
Tumors that have migrated to other body parts are much harder to treat. They require combined efforts of several treatment options for complete removal. Doctors usually discuss the treatment approach to be used with the patient.
Melanoma on arm symptoms, causes and treatments
The arm is one of the body parts often exposed to sun. This makes it a common site for melanomas to develop.
Most melanomas on the arm will be noticed in their early stages. Since affected melanocytes will still be able to produce melanin, the affected area will appear heavily pigmented than surrounding areas. Early signs can start in an existing mole or in a healthy part of the skin. The ABCDEs are commonly used for diagnosis. They stand for:
- Asymmetry – this describes the general orientation or shape of the mole or blemish. If you can’t draw a line that cuts the mole in two equal halves, medical attention should be sought.
- Borders – borders or edges are points that mark the extent to which discoloration has spread across the skin. Melanomas often have unclearly marked or what can be described as irregular edges. For normal moles, they may be round or oval.
- Colors – blue is the main color that often appears in mixed in the dark-brown of most melanomas. Multiple colors in a skin blemish or a mole is never a normal feature.
- Diameter – a mole can become as wide as a pencil eraser. This should not cause you much concern, as long as the mole has always been there and is not showing any sign of changing. The only thing to worry about is a mole that appears as if from nowhere and becomes fairly large in a short time.
- Evolution – by the age of 20, most moles will have developed. Mature moles stay in the same state for a long time. If any changes are to occur, they probably will not be noticeable or significant. Malignancy in moles is often indicated by gradual change in physical features such as texture, size, shape and color. For example, a melanoma can appear as a bumpy, freckled or ulcerated mole. These same features will likely also appear in a melanoma on back.
Experts know that cancer, including melanoma, develop when certain changes occur in DNA. This takes away the ability of cells to control their dividing and death processes. What exactly triggers the abnormality is not well understood. Risk factors include:
- UV radiation
- Weakened immune system
- Fair skin
Treatments largely depend on the stage the tumor is in.
- Stage 1 – stage 1 melanoma tumors are still in local positions. Treatment mostly involves surgical excision. Before the operation, imaging tests will be used to set an excisional margin. An excision will then be made to remove the tumor and some tissue surrounding the tumor.
- Stage 2 – surgery is still the main treatment method in this case. The main difference is that a larger excision margin will be set. This is because stage 2 melanomas usually have penetrated into the dermis. After the surgery, a sentinel lymph node biopsy may be performed. It is a test to check whether melanoma cells have reached local lymph nodes. Doses of radiation or chemotherapy drugs may be administered afterwards.
- Stage 3 – at this stage, some malignant cells have broken free from the primary tumor and entered lymphatic system. Surgery is therefore done on two fronts. One involves cutting out the primary tumor and some surrounding skin. The other one involves removing the lymph nodes that have been invaded. It is very likely that drugs which target some functions of cancer cells will be administered after surgery. This is to reduce the likelihood of melanoma recurring. Another prevention mechanism is to use radiotherapy.
- Stage 4 – here, surgery may require to be done in more than two fronts. This is because malignancy has spread not only to local lymph nodes but also distant organs such as the brain or lungs. Doctors first identify all tumors and determine whether they can be surgically removed. If not, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy treatment options will be used. In most cases, treatment in this case will only be aimed at shrinking tumors but not get rid of them. This is why survival rate is very low at this stage.
Foot melanoma symptoms, risk factors and treatments
Foot melanoma can develop on sole or in the nail. For the former, early melanoma signs can be identified with the ABCDEs. Be on the lookout for new moles or ones that change how they look, are shaped or textured.
For melanoma in the toenails, the common sign is appearance of a vertical streak which may be brown, purple or black. Unlike bruises, they will persist indefinitely. It is also common for the streaks to be wider near the nail bed. Affected nails may crack.
- Fair skin
- UV radiation
- Atypical moles syndrome
- History of melanomas
- Genetic predisposition
- Weakened immunity
- Surgery – done to either remove the tumor or amputate part of affected nail. It is very successful and widely used for in situ tumors. In the past, melanoma on toe was usually treated by amputating the entire toe. This has recently changed for the better.
- Chemotherapy – used to shrink tumors or ensure complete removal of malignant cells after surgery. Drugs are either injected directly or administered systematically.
- Radiotherapy – use of X-rays to damage the structure of melanoma cells. It is commonly used to shrink tumors as well reduce pain from spreading tumors.
- Immunotherapy – an advanced form of treatment where drugs are administered to boost the body’s capability to fight cancer cells. It is a common treatment of choice after advanced uveal melanoma staging.
- Targeted therapy – can be described as an advanced form of chemotherapy. In this case, drugs that specifically target cancer cells are used.
Consider other topics such as what is mucosal melanoma, which are the different types of cancers of the skin and so on. They may help in one way or another. In any case, experts predict that cancers of the skin will become very common in the near future.
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