Melanoma is a potentially serious type of skin cancer that can occur on ANY part of the body, not just on sun-exposed skin. It involves the abnormal growth of melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, of the epidermis (top layer of skin).
The main risk factors for developing the most common type of melanoma (superficial spreading type, 75%) are: personal or family history of a melanoma, multiple moles (usually >50), history of a previous Basal Cell or Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a history of multiple (>5) abnormal moles in the past, or white/fair skin that burns easily.
The types of melanoma are in situ ( if the tumor is confined to the epidermis), invasive (if the tumor has spread to the deeper layer of skin, the dermis), or metastatic (if the tumor has spread to other parts of the body). When melanomas are “in situ” or superficial, we remove them with a simple in-office procedure, a surgical excision, with appropriate margins. When we catch a melanoma that is beyond stage 0 in situ, we work closely with our colleagues at the Hoag Melanoma Center.
Melanoma Removal Procedure
The general steps involved in the procedure are as follows:
- Local anesthetic is administered to numb the area around the melanoma.
- An incision is made around the melanoma, taking care to remove the entire tumor along with a small margin of surrounding healthy tissue.
- The removed tissue will be sent to a pathology lab to be examined under a microscope to ensure that all of the cancerous cells have been removed. If any cancerous cells remain, additional surgery may be required.
- The size and location of the melanoma will determine the size of the incision required for the removal. In some cases, particularly for larger melanomas, a skin graft may be necessary to repair the area where the melanoma was removed.
- After the melanoma is removed, the wound will be closed with sutures or skin adhesive.
- A dressing or bandage may be placed over the area to protect it while it heals.
- You will be given instructions for how to care for the wound and will need to return to the dermatologist’s office for follow-up appointments to monitor the healing process and ensure there are no signs of recurrence.