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Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in melanocytes, the skin cells that make the pigment responsible for your skin and hair color. While melanoma only accounts for 2% of skin cancer cases, it accounts for a majority of skin cancer deaths – meaning it’s a rarer, but deadlier cancer.

At Atrium Health Levine Cancer, we have a team of nationally recognized leaders in medical, radiologic and surgical oncology who collaborate daily to provide care plans tailored to your specific needs. We use the latest technologies, treatments and research to provide you with the highest quality of care.

Melanoma tests and diagnosis

Melanoma may be first detected during a skin self-exam or during an exam by a medical professional, such as a dermatologist (skin doctor). However, the only way to confirm if a suspicious area is cancerous is by biopsy, in which part or all of the growth is removed and analyzed by a pathologist.

Biopsies may be performed by various techniques:

  • Punch biopsy – obtains a sample of skin via a circular blade
  • Shave biopsy – removes the first few layers of skin for analysis
  • Excisional biopsy – removes the entire growth, along with a small amount of surrounding skin
  • Incisional biopsy – takes only the part of the growth that looks the most suspicious

If it appears that melanoma has spread, other techniques, such as fine needle aspiration or image-guided biopsy, may be needed.

Melanoma treatment

There are several approaches to treating melanoma. Our team of experts has the skill and experience to determine the best treatments for the best outcomes.

Melanoma treatment options include:

  • Surgery – usually reserved for early stages of melanoma and may include techniques such as wide local excision, lymphadenectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • Chemotherapy – usually used for advanced stages of disease and includes medications that may stop the growth of cancer cells throughout the body
  • Radiation therapy – uses high-energy X-rays and other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or halt growth; radiation therapy may be delivered externally, i.e., delivered by a machine outside the body, or internally delivered by a device, such as a radioactive needle or seed, and placed in or near the tumor
  • Immunotherapy – harnesses the ability of the body's immune system to combat infection or disease (also called biologic therapy)
  • Targeted therapy – a newer type of cancer treatment that uses drugs or other substances to more precisely identify and attack cancer cells, usually while doing little damage to normal cells

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