Video Production by Josh Melendez

This video discusses the melanoma skin cancer and its different levels.

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Good Information about Melanoma

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Video Transcript:

Today’s topic is going to be on melanoma skin cancer. Now melanoma skin cancers are bad cancers, you do not want one. And so it, this is a big topic, but the most important thing about this topic is to please have a conversation with your local dermatologist, to determine what the right treatment is for you, and what your diagnosis means for not only your short-term medical care, but also the considerations that have to be put into place for you and your family for long-term care.

Now melanomas are basically broken down into two different categories. And the first category is when they are on the surface of the skin. So when they’re just on the surface of the skin we call them different things like melanoma in situ or lentigo maligna, or one of these terms, and these are the best types of melanomas to get, because they have not acquired depth. It does not look like they are invading down into the skin or into the body. And when they are not invading into the body or they’re not getting depth then the chances of these spreading internally to different organs or metastasizing, and wreaking havoc in your life is less than 5%. So those are very good odds.

Now we need to treat these, and usually we treat these with wide local excision, and then we might follow up with a cream that helps clean up some of the surrounding damage. But please talk to your local dermatologist about what the right treatment approach is for you. Now when you look down below in the notes section, you’re gonna see links to different videos that will describe different treatment approaches that your dermatologist might recommend for you. So please look at those. Please have a conversation with your local dermatologist.

Now the second category of melanoma is the melanoma that has depth. So when melanomas acquired depth or invasion, they are very dangerous, and the chances of them spreading to other organs or metastasizing, it goes up.

Now this is a very big topic, and I highly encourage you to have a conversation with your local dermatologist about what treatment is right for you. Sometimes all you need is a wide local excision in your dermatologist’s office. Sometimes you’re going to need to go to the hospital and have a wide local excision, plus something called a sentinel lymph node biopsy, and we use that sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine if you have an increased risk of that cancer spreading internally. So in other words, when you go to the hospital what they will do, is they’ll inject dye into the area where the melanoma is. They’ll track that dye to the lymph nodes that it drains to, and they’ll remove those lymph nodes. They’ll send not only the excision of the melanoma to the lab, but they will also send the lymph nodes that they removed.

Now that sentinel lymph node biopsy does really nothing but give you more indicators of if this melanoma is going to wreak havoc in your life, and you need to undergo maybe chemotherapy, maybe radiation, maybe other treatments, or whether the chances of it spreading internally are reasonably low, and nothing else needs to be done but monitoring you. So the determination between just simply a wide local excision, or a wide local excision plus a sentinel lymph node biopsy is determined off of the pathology report that your dermatologist has.

So please have a conversation with them about what the appropriate care is for you. Now once you’ve had a melanoma you have to be very careful for the rest of your life. Please limit any excessive UV exposure, and we talked about how to do that in other videos. Please also talk to all of your first-degree relatives, whether that’s your father or mother, brother, sister, sons or daughters. All of them need to have full body skin exams by a dermatologist, every year for the rest of their life. Because they share your genetics and they probably share many of your favorite activities, which means they share your environmental exposures, and they have an increased risk of developing melanoma themselves.

And with all topics in medicine, the sooner we catch something the easier it is to treat. And that also applies to you. So please look at yourself every month in the mirror to notice anything that’s new, changing, growing, or simply not healing. And if you notice any of those things, please let your dermatologists know as soon as possible. You also need to have full body skin exams at least once a year for the rest of your life by a dermatologist. Please also ask your hairdresser, your ophthalmologist, your dentist, and if you’re a woman, your OB/GYN to every time they look in those areas, which should be at least once a year, to notice if anything is new changing or growing. Focus on prevention, and we have a whole video that talks about prevention of skin cancers. Please ask any and all questions you have about your care for your melanoma with your local dermatologist.

Because an educated patient is always the best patient, and that’s our mission. Our mission is to help you become comfortable with your skin. Thank you.

Patient: There was something that I wanted you to take a look at, and we happen to notice a spot that didn’t look normal. So it wasn’t something I was expecting. I think I was kind of confused, overwhelmed, because I was 19 maybe 20. I can’t remember exactly. So it’s not something you’re expecting, and even people now if they ask me if I’ve ever had melanoma, and I say yes, they say, “You’re so young. How is that possible?” But really it’s possible at any age, and so I was really pretty overwhelmed. You guys always made me feel super comfortable. And so that’s really put me at ease through the surgeries.

About the author

Dr. Anderson with Doctors Quarterly Magazine - Cropped
Dr. Reagan Anderson

Dr. Anderson is a Board Certified Dermatologist and Mohs Micrographic Surgeon. He serves as a Clinical Professor of Dermatology and is actively involved in patient and healthcare provider education on dermatology conditions and treatment.

Colorado Dermatology Institute
8580 Scarborough Drive / 1220 Lake Plaza Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado