In most cases, melanoma is easy to self-detect at an early stage while it is curable by simple surgical excision. Although the visual appearance of a skin lesion (a growth or mark) is often an indication of melanoma, you cannot always rely on this alone. You should also be aware of the history of your skin lesions-any changes that occur in them, as well the onset of any new ones. The only way to develop this awareness is by regular self-examination of your skin. We recommend a complete self-skin exam once every month and an annual examination by your primary care physician or dermatologist.
The primary symptom of any skin cancer is usually a mole, sore, lump or growth on the skin. Any change in the appearance of a pigmented skin sore over time is a warning. Also, watch for any bleeding from a skin growth. The ABCD system may help you remember features that might be symptoms of melanoma:
- Asymmetry: One half of the normal area is different from the other half
- Borders: The lesion or growth has irregular edges
- Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black (Sometimes white, red or blue). A mixture of colors may appear with one sore
- Diameter: The trouble spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6mm in diameter — about the size of a pencil head.
Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. That is a scary thought! Our goal is to make people aware of the warning signs of skin cancer, encourage them to see a skin specialist when necessary and help fund melanoma research.
Cancer remains a devastating disease, but there is progress in the quest for cures. UVa’s Cancer Center ranks among the top cancer centers in the nation, recording some 25,000 patient visits annually. As part of the UVa Cancer Center, the Human Immune Therapy Center has achieved international prominence for its work in developing cancer vaccines that harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
Their melanoma vaccine is showing remarkable promise, and the scientific methods they are pioneering could have vast I implications in treating other cancers. Our project will help them extend research in immune therapy by spurring and sustaining productivity, attracting the finest scientists and clinicians, and speeding new therapies safely to the bedside of cancer patients.
The Melanoma Care Team at the University of Virginia is devoted to providing the most advanced treatments for patients with melanoma, as well as cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, intraocular cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and skin cancer. The Melanoma Team is comprised of a combination of specialists, including surgeons, medical oncologists, and pathologists, who meet weekly to discuss effectiveness of current treatments and progress in development of trials in order to provide patients with the newest and most promising treatments customized to their individual needs. The services of social workers, psychologists, and patient support groups are also available. This team seeks to develop treatments that improve quality and length of life by translating laboratory research into clinical trials.
The Melanoma Team is a world leader in the development and testing of vaccines for the treatment of melanoma and prevention of its recurrence. Various innovative clinical trials testing these vaccines are available through the Human Immune Therapy Center, whose mission is to offer hope to cancer patients by making available the newest types of immune therapy, creating new knowledge about how to help the immune system kill cancer, and providing national leadership in testing new therapies and bringing them into standard practice.
The Melanoma Team is part of the University of Virginia Cancer Center, which is a highly ranked National Cancer Institute designated Cancer Center.