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Treatment Options for Melanoma

Although rare, melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin.

Melanoma has three main subtypes based on the location:

  • Cutaneous melanoma: It occurs on the skin of areas such as the neck, arms, face, and hands. All these parts are usually exposed to sunlight.
  • Uveal or ocular melanoma – A rare sickness that emanates from the uvea, the eye’s pigmented layer.
  • Mucosal melanoma – It develops in the mucous membrane, such as the nasal package, mouth, and throat

What’s the Cause of Melanoma?

Melanoma’s major risk factor is exposure to UV rays. The sunlight contains UV rays, but artificial sources like tanning beds have UV rays too.

UV rays may damage skin cells’ DNA, and when the damage affects the genes controlling cell growth, cancer may develop.

Treating Melanoma

The treatment option for melanoma is dependent on the stage of this disease.

  • Surgery: Most oncologists use surgical remove for melanoma that is between stage 0 and 2. The surgery involves the removal of tumor along with the nearby normal tissue. This action helps to reduce the likelihood of local recurrence
  • Adjuvant therapy: This refers to treatments that help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. For melanoma cases, adjuvant therapy may include targeted therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
  • Systemic therapy: If the cancer has metastasized, the doctor may administer systemic therapy after surgery. This treatment involves spreading drugs throughout various parts of the body to treat cancer cells.

Two Common Modern Treatment Options

Today, melanoma patients can opt for targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs prevent the activation of PD-1 or CTLA-4, and this boosts the immune system so it can easily identify and target cancer cells. Immunotherapy is typically the first treatment option for patients with metastatic melanoma, but depending on specific circumstances, a doctor may start with target therapy.
  • Targeted Therapy: The treatment option aims at shutting down cells that trigger cancer growth without hurting the nearby healthy tissues. Targeted therapy currently applies to patients with BRAF mutation – a mutation common in 50 percent of melanoma tumors.

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