In the US alone, there are over 9,500 people diagnosed with skin cancer each day. It is the most common type of cancer in the country which takes the lives of at least two people every hour. Skin cancer has different kinds, and melanoma, one that affects the melanocytes is considered the most dangerous.
Different types of melanoma
Melanoma is categorized into four main types:
- Nodular melanoma. This type of melanoma grows faster than others and is also the second most commonly diagnosed type in skin cancer patients. It is mostly found on the back, neck, and chest.
- Superficial spreading melanoma. This type of melanoma affects the legs, arms, and chest.
- Acral lentiginous melanoma. The rarest kind of melanoma, it is found on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands, or under fingernails. It is also more common for people with brown and black skin. Unlike other types of melanoma, this type is not caused by sun exposure.
- Lentigo malignant melanoma. This is another less common type of melanoma, which often affects older people.
Apart from these four main types of melanoma, there is another rare type, which is called desmoplastic melanoma. It is unusual for melanoma to develop in other areas of the body other than the skin.
Today, many organizations involved in research and treatment of skin cancer often host a patient engagement platform where medical professionals and patients can effectively connect to get better assistance on treatment plans and other issues related to care and rehabilitation.
Who can treat skin cancer?
A skin cancer patient can have many options when seeking treatment from a medical professional. Depending on your condition, these doctors may provide the help you need:
- Surgical oncologist. A doctor specializing in the treatment of cancer through surgery.
- Medical oncologist. A doctor that administers treatments such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy to treat cancer.
- Radiation oncologist. A doctor that specializes in treating cancer patients using radiation therapy.
- Dermatologist. A doctor specializing in treating all kinds of diseases affecting the skin.
There are also other medical specialists who may be involved in skin cancer treatment. Some of these include nurses, social workers, psychologists, and rehabilitation specialists.
Treatments for melanoma
The treatment plan for melanoma depends on the cancer stage and many factors that affect the patient. In general, the following are treatment options typically prescribed.
- Skin cancer surgery. Surgery to remove melanoma is effective in curing early-stage skin cancer.
- Immunotherapy. This treatment involves using medicine to stimulate the patient’s immune system so that it can effectively destroy cancer cells. There are different types of immunotherapy treatment which are known to cure melanoma effectively.
- Chemotherapy. The use of chemotherapy drugs injected into the bloodstream, killing cancer which may have spread to other parts of the body.
- Radiation. It is not common to use radiation for skin cancer treatment but is sometimes considered a viable option when surgery is not possible.
- Targeted therapy. The drugs used for targeted therapy are different from chemotherapy because they will only target melanoma cells.
The most effective treatment option depends not only on the stage of skin cancer but also on other physiological factors such as the patient’s age and the potential side effects of the treatment chosen. It is essential for a patient to have an extensive discussion with a medical professional to ensure that the selected treatment will not only have positive results but will not significantly impact the patient’s quality of life.