Melanoma: Early Detection Is Crucial
- Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave, 41, who was declared cancer free from melanoma after having 12 spots and three lymph nodes removed in 2022, had to have “three new spots” biopsied this month.
- Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the same cells that give your skin, hair and eyes their color. Ninety percent of melanomas are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, so it’s important to protect your skin.
- We can get sun damage at any time throughout the year, no matter the weather or temperature. Our experts recommend skin protection techniques like sunscreen usage all year round.
- Paying attention to moles or growths on your skin is an easy way to look out for melanoma since changes to a mole you’ve had for a while or developing a new growth you don’t remembering having on your skin could be signs of of this cancer, according to SurvivorNet’s experts.
“First off, I am forever appreciative of the outpouring of love and support. Now an update: I went in for my 4-6 week checkup and there were three new spots my doctors felt needed to be biopsied,” she wrote in an Instagram caption last week. “I’m getting a lot of questions about the spots being white. I have had both white and brown melanomas; this is why I continue to share to get checked no matter what.”Read More
The mother of three is hoping to spread awareness for melanoma and help others pay attention to changes in their bodies and get checked.
“As someone who is a controlled person, I’m dealing as best I can with something out of my control. Things I can control: staying on top of my appointments, self-checks, and asking my doctors questions,” she said.
“I’m trying my best to stay positive and will fill you in when I get the results. If this saves even one person from going through what I’m going through, it’s worth it.”
Arroyave’s most recent cancer scare comes about two months after she underwent surgery to remove melanomas, lymph nodes “that lit up,” and additional biopsies.
At the time, she revealed she would also be undergoing full genetic mutation testing and a PET scan.
In total, Arroyave had 12 spots and three lymph nodes removed in 2022.
Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave’s Cancer Journey
After having a cancerous mole removed from her shoulder, Arroyave told fans in a March 22, 2022, Instagram post, “Got my results back and it’s good news: melanoma in situ which means the cancer cells were contained in that area of my skin and have not spread any deeper!”
Also known as “stage zero,” melanoma in situ is the earliest stage of the extremely deadly cancer. Since then, she knew she would have to go in for 3-month checkups and be vigilant about skin protection.
But sadly, Arroyave shared the news of another, more serious melanoma diagnosis in October 2022.
“Melanoma awareness update. Despite my anxiety, I listened to the doctors and went in for my 3-month skin check last week since my previous melanoma,” she wrote in an Instagram caption. “They said I had another abnormal spot near my last one so they did a biopsy. I got the call this morning: Stage 2 melanoma.”
A surgeon had to “cut out” the cancerous spot.
“Moral of this story: if a doctor says, ‘come in every 3 months’ please go in every 3 months,” she said in her earlier post. “I so badly wanted to blow this off. ‘What could happen in 3 months?’ I thought. Apparently a lot.”
She then went on to say that her experience has taught her a very important lesson about her health.
“I continue to share this journey because I was a 90s teen, putting baby oil and iodine on my skin to tan it. Never wearing sunscreen or getting my moles checked until I was 40 years old,” she wrote. “This has been such a wakeup call for me, and I hope to all of you, to love and protect the skin you’re in.”
Learning about Melanoma – Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave’s Cancer
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the same cells that give your skin, hair and eyes their color. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 99,610 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States in 2023
And while the ACS says the risk of melanoma increases as people age with the average age of diagnosis being 65, the disease is not uncommon among those younger than 30. In fact, it’s one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young women).
The disease can develop from an existing mole or appear as a dark or pink growth on the skin even in places on the body that never see the sun. It’s also known to be the deadliest form of skin cancer.
“Melanomas are the deadliest type of skin cancer because they have a tendency to spread to other parts of the body,” explains Dr. Anna Pavlick, a medical oncologist with Weill Cornell Medicine who specializes in treating skin cancer.
Ninety percent of melanomas are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This means excessive time in the sun – even as a child – puts you at a higher risk.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Dendy Engelman from MDCS Dermatology in New York shared the top five things you can do to avoid skin cancer:
- Avoid sun during peak hours, which is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect the tops of our heads, the tops of our ears and the delicate area around the eye.
- Wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen and make sure to reapply every two hours or after excessive sweating or swimming.
- Have yearly skin checks (with a professional), because it’s difficult to evaluate areas all over the body.
- Avoid tanning beds. There are no “good” tanning beds, and they can significantly increase your risk of melanoma.
Paying Attention to Your Skin
Keeping an eye on the moles or growths on your skin is an easy way to keep an eye out for melanoma. Changes to a mole you’ve had for a while or developing a new growth you don’t remembering having on your skin could be signs of this cancer, according to SurvivorNet’s experts.
- Asymmetrical moles: “If you drew a line straight down the center of the mole, would the sides match?”
- Borders that are “irregular, jagged, not smooth.” It can also stand for bleeding.
- Colors: “Multiple distinct colors in the mole.”
- Diameter: “Larger than 6mm, about the size of a pencil head eraser.”
- Evolution: “This may be the most important,” she says. “Anything that is changing over time such as gaining color, losing color, painful, itching, hurting, changing shape, etc.”
Spots on our skin are often harmless, but it’s still important to keep an eye on them and reach out to your doctor if you see any changes or find a growth anywhere on your skin that looks suspicious.
All About Biopsies
If your dermatologist requested a biopsy on your atypical mole, it may not necessarily mean anything serious. In fact, biopsies are common.
Dermatologists regularly do biopsies on suspicious skin areas, and it’s a quick way to confirm or rule out melanoma. According to Dr. Larocca, only about one out of every 12 biopsies turns out to be a melanoma.
If your mole went to the lab for a biopsy, the waiting period can be stressful. But rest assured knowing that your mole most likely isn’t cancerous. “Don’t fear if your dermatologist is doing a biopsy,” Dr. Larocca emphasizes. “They’re not always because we know without a doubt that there is melanoma.”
Biopsies offer the most accurate diagnosis, so if you’re ever unsure about a mole or lesion on your skin, always visit your dermatologist for a skin assessment. And remember, early detection is key in the fight against melanoma.
How is Melanoma Treated?
There are several options when it comes to treating melanoma, and the approach depends on the stage of the disease as well as certain other factors. When the disease is caught in an early stage, surgery is likely the best option.
“The gold standard for treatment of melanoma is surgical treatment with wide margins,” says Dr. Nima Gharavi, Director of Dermatologic Surgery at Cedars-Sinai.
In some cases of early-stage melanoma that’s close to the skin’s surface, Mohs surgery may be offered. This is most common in areas such as the face, ears, and nose.
In some cases, later stage disease can be removed with surgery as well. For metastatic disease, there have been incredible advances when it comes to treating melanoma with immunotherapy in recent years. Immunotherapy drugs work to rally a patient’s own immune system to help recognize and fight cancer cells.
“When immunotherapy came on the market, it was such an exciting time for everyone involved in the care of melanoma, the main reason being is it went from this scary unmanageable cancer with no treatments to one that could potentially have a long lasting result with patients absolutely never having to worry about their melanoma,” explains Dr. Larocca.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff