Malignant melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that usually originates from the colour cells in the skin (melanocytes) . The most common cause is sun exposure, although other factors can play a role such as a family history of skin cancer (genetics).
Melanoma is usually recognised by the naked eye as a mole that has been changing in size, shape or colour or may have been bleeding, painful or itchy. Not all melanomas are dark moles, some can be reddish brown or simple red in colour.
Melanoma has a risk of spreading throughout the body and therefore any suspicion that a patient has a melanoma is taken very seriously.
Most melanomas are removed by surgery at an early stage and patients therefore usually have a very good long term outcome (prognosis).
Some patients do have more advanced melanoma which requires more specialist care, all of which can be provided at Skin55.
Surgical treatment for melanoma
In the first instance, moles that are suspected to be melanoma are removed by a surgical procedure known as excision. This involves cutting out the suspect mole, usually under local anaesthetic and often stitching the wound closed.
The mole that has been removed is then sent for laboratory testing. At Skin55 we can normally have lab results in a few days for urgent cases.
Wide local excision for malignant melanoma
After the initial mole has been removed and tested, confirming the diagnosis of malignant melanoma,a further procedure known as a wide local excision is usually performed. This means that the scar from the original procedure is cut out, even if the melanoma had been completely removed the first time around.
The size of the wide local excision is usually 1 or 2 cm around the previous scar - this is known as the surgical margin. The size of the margin depends on how deep the melanoma was, according to a measurement known as the Breslow depth.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy for melanoma
Some patients will be offered an additional procedure known as a sentinel lymph node biopsy - this is a procedure that can more accurately determine a patients prognosis if they have been diagnosed with melanoma and is used to determine the patient's cancer "stage." Your consultant will discuss the suitability of this procedure with you, if appropriate.
Skin cancer multidisciplinary team at Skin55, Harley Street.
At Skin55 we have a team of specialists that can diagnose, advise and treat squamous cell carcinoma as routine. Our skin cancer team consists of highly experienced consultants and specialist nurses who can guide you through your care.
Useful skin cancer links: