Hello, my name is Gregory. When I was a young lad, I had to enter the health care world in an unexpected way. I developed a serious disease out of the blue that took doctors by surprise. I went through so many different testing procedures before my doctors could diagnose the rare disease. Everyone around me reeled as they tried to understand the purpose and process of the diagnostic tests. I hope to help others understand these important tests better through this website. Please come by often to learn all you need to know about medical diagnostics and working closely with health care professionals.
One in fifty Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer, at some point during their lives. Melanoma develops within the melanin-producing cells of the skin, and from there, it can spread to other parts of the body. There are multiple subtypes of this cancer, including desmoplastic melanoma. Here are four things you need to know about desmoplastic melanoma.
What are the signs of desmoplastic melanoma?
While the well-known ABCD mnemonic can help you identify other types of melanoma, it isn't much use for desmoplastic melanoma. This is because desmoplastic melanoma tends to resemble benign skin lesions like scars, moles, or cysts.
Generally, this type of melanoma develops on the skin of the head and neck. It typically appears as a palpable lump or thickened area of skin. A lesion that looks like a scar may also appear on your skin despite the skin not being previously injured. Report any suspicious lesions or scars to your dermatologist so that they can be evaluated.
What causes it?
Desmoplastic melanoma has the same cause as other types of melanoma: ultraviolet radiation. Intermittent sun exposure, like spending the day at the beach, is associated with an increased risk, while chronic, low-level sun exposure is not. However, the sun isn't the only source of damaging UV radiation; tanning beds and welding work can also expose you to this radiation and increase your risk of melanoma.
Sun exposure is a problem because the sun's rays harm your skin. Sunburns, liver spots, and actinic keratosis are signs that your skin has been damaged by the sun, but the problems go much deeper. The sun damages the DNA within your skin cells, and if the DNA becomes sufficiently damaged, the cells will begin to grow out of control, resulting in melanoma.
What complications can they cause?
Desmoplastic melanomas spread differently than other types of melanomas, which can result in unique complications. Desmoplastic melanomas tend to deeply infiltrate the skin, rather than spreading superficially, which allows them to reach the nerves. The melanoma can then spread along the nerves and lead to neuropathies of the face and neck. This can manifest as tingling or numbness in the affected area.
It's also possible for this type of melanoma to spread from the skin to the lymph nodes, though this is less frequent with desmoplastic melanoma than other types of melanoma. Studies have reported lymph node involvement rates of between 0% and 13.7%. The lymph nodes in close proximity to your melanoma will be biopsied if your dermatologist is concerned about lymph node involvement.
How is it treated?
A surgical procedure known as wide local excision is the first line of treatment for this type of melanoma, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. During this surgery, your melanoma will be removed, and if possible, a wide margin of healthy tissue will also be cut away. Dermatologists try to take margins of at least 2 centimeters from all sides of the cancer to reduce the risk of recurrence, though this isn't always possible. For example, these large margins aren't possible when desmoplastic melanoma forms around the eyes or on other parts of the face.
If your dermatologist can't remove adequate margins, radiation therapy will be required to ensure that all of the cancer is destroyed. This treatment is performed by an oncologist. A large machine will be used to aim radiation at the site of your desmoplastic melanoma.
Once your desmoplastic melanoma has been successfully treated, your dermatologist will monitor you for signs of a recurrence.
If you think you have desmoplastic melanoma, make an appointment with a dermatologist, like one at Advanced Dermatology Care.