Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises from melanocytes, cells responsible for skin pigments. While rare, melanoma can arise from other parts of the body like the gut and finger nails. Melanoma is a serious cancer and can occur in the younger population. Risk factors for melanoma include age, fair complexion, sun exposure and the number of freckles and moles you have. Use of tanning beds have been discouraged in Australia because of their possible link to melanoma (Cancer Council WA).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Melanoma can present with a new dark freckle or mole, and should be thought of if an old freckle changes colour, shape, has indistinct borders or starts to bleed and ulcerate. In the advanced stage it can present anywhere in the body from the glands of the neck, armpit or inguinal regions, to spots in the organs of the body like the lung, liver and brain.
There is no community screening program or simple test for melanoma but if you are worried please see your general practitioner for an opinion on a skin spot that is worrying you. The best way if in doubt is to take a biopsy or remove the skin lesion for pathological diagnosis.
For early stage melanoma, surgery is the primary treatment. Radiotherapy is valuable in selected situations where surgery is not possible. For melanoma with high risk features or that has involved the lymph nodes, radiotherapy and / or interferon have a role to play. For melanoma that has spread to parts of the body, chemotherapy and targeted therapies are beneficial. Radiotherapy is very useful in symptom control where melanoma is causing pain, bleeding, blockages or has spread to the brain. Radiotherapy technologies have been proven to be useful in selected situations using external beam radiotherapy and stereotactic radiotherapy. Please do ask your radiation oncologist about the most appropriate options for your care.
Radiotherapy treatment services for melanoma are available at the following Genesis Cancer Care Western Australia centres: