Melanoma is one of the deadliest tumors in the world. This tumor affects skin and it is formed of melanocytes the cells that are regularly present in the skin. During sunbathing melanocytes becomes visible due to the pigment present in melanocytes and the pigmentations occurring after the exposure to the sun are actually collections of melanocytes. The tumor can develop on the previously normal skin or it can rise from a nevus (a mole) or certain changes which is defined as precancerosis.
The definitive cure for melanoma is surgical removal but only if it is done on time and if melanoma is diagnosed in the first stage of the disease. However this happens rather rarely therefore the definitive cure for the majority of patients does not exist. The lethal outcome is inevitable in later stages of the disease.
There are several treatment options for patients suffering from melanoma. There are even clinical trials exploring new treatment options. Surgical removal is essential in treating melanoma. The skin change is resected together with the large portions of surrounding tissue as this tumor tend to give metastases in the very beginning of the disease. These metastases are called satellite metastases and they are scattered in the surrounding tissue. This modality can be the only treatment option. However if pathological findings prove progress of the disease the patient is due to continue with other treatment modalities.
The chemotherapy is given in case of metastases. Local metastases which are present in the surrounding tissue (lymph nodes) and local organs are treated with dacarbazine. Still in case of larger metastases the surgical removal has to be repeated. This chemotherapeutic may be helpful. In case of dissemination of the disease into the lungs, brain or liver there are other chemotherapeutics which can be applied. Cisplatin is one of the most powerful and mainly used in these situations. The toxicity of this drug is severe as it mostly affects blood cells and leads to rather unpleasant side effects such as prolonged nausea and vomiting. Temozolomide is a drug used for brain metastases of melanoma. Immunotherapy with interferon is still investigated and there are clinical trial including people with the advanced disease. Immunotherapy will hopefully be available in foreseeable future and will be more effective that current options. Radiation therapy has no effect on melanoma as this tumor is highly resistant to radiation. The best way for one is to prevent the disease by reducing the exposure to sun rays and going for regular check-ups of suspicious moles. All the newly formed changes on the skin are to be reported as soon as possible.