Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma is a skin cancer that develops from the pigment
producing cells in the skin. Identified early there is the
potential for full cure but unfortunately melanoma can spread and
be life threatening. New Zealand has the highest rate of Melanoma
in the world with 1800 new cases diagnosed per year. It is the
third most common cancer diagnosis in New Zealand (excluding
non-melanoma skin cancer). Fortunately, due to the ability to
recognise and treat melanoma in its early stages, it is only the
tenth most common cause of cancer death.
Your Plastic Surgeon is trained to help with both the initial
diagnosis of melanoma as well as its subsequent management. The
best way to manage melanoma is to prevent it developing. One of the
most significant risk factors for subsequent development of
melanoma is sun burn in childhood or adolescence therefore the use
of sun protection from an early age is essential. Once Melanoma has
developed it always requires surgical removal.
If a melanoma does develop we worry about it for four main
reasons. Firstly there is a risk that it may regrow where it
originally appeared. To decrease that risk your Plastic Surgeon
will remove a margin of normal skin from the site of the melanoma -
the amount of skin removed depends on the severity of the melanoma.
The second risk is that it may spread to the lymph glands near
where the melanoma was. Your surgeon will recommend if further
assessment of the glands is necessary. This may involve scans or
removal of a single indicator node called the sentinel lymph node.
Thirdly there is a risk that melanoma can spread throughout your
body. Your Plastic Surgeon can investigate and advise you on
further care if that is the case. Finally there is always the risk
of developing a further new melanoma if you have already had one.
Your Plastic Surgeon can offer you ongoing surveillance or advice
on alternative appropriate review.
Further general information is available from the Cancer
Society and the Melanoma Foundation
Find a melanoma specialist