Learning About Melanoma
- Alondra Sierra says she “exposed” herself to harmful UV rays before she was diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
- She first noticed a mysteriously growing freckle on her forehead at age 19. The spot also changed colors.
- Now 24, Sierra is sharing her skin cancer story in hopes to inspire others to check their skin for any changes and seek help from a medical professional when something appears to be unusual.
- 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 with things like sunscreen and clothing.
- 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 remember having on your skin could be signs of this cancer, according to SurvivorNet’s experts.
Now 24, Sierra is sharing her story, saying she wishes she got checked sooner by a doctor as she likely could have prevented having to undergo multiple surgeries, procedures, and treatments, as well as getting skin grafts and tissue expanders.Read More
The size, shape, irregular border, color, and “unusual growth” of the mole on her forehead was just some of the symptoms she noticed. She also noticed feeling irritation, itching, pain, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.
Expert Melanoma Resources
- A Biopsy of Your Mole Doesn’t Mean You Have Melanoma
- Am I at High Risk for Melanoma?
- Atypical Moles Don’t Necessarily Mean You Have Melanoma
- Beating Aggressive Melanoma: An Immunotherapy Success Story
- Examining Your Skin for Melanoma: Remember ABCDE
- Melanoma Relapse Treatment: Advances on the Horizon
- Get Your Moles Evaluated to Rule Out Melanoma
Sierra, from Mexico, was diagnosed with melanoma three years later when she was 22 years old. By then, the skin cancer had “grown rapidly.”
“I was three years deep with this skin cancer that I did not know I had,” she added. “And I had gone through so many surgeries, procedures, and treatments. I probably wouldn’t have gone through so much if I had just seen a medical professional, or a dermatologist, for my yearly skin and nail check.”
May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month🖤 This month let us all wear SPF daily (and re-apply) and protect our skin from too much sun/UV exposure and artificial sources. A suggestion from my dermatologist, the most recognized as safe and effective sunblock that is best for app skin types by the FDA is any Mineral SPF that contains Zinc and Titanium Dioxide. @@Alondra Sierra Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give color to the skin become cancerous. It can grow and spread very rapidly, immediate attention should be given to avoid it reaching an organ or from spreading any further. It can be diagnosed to any age, gender, or skin type. And unfortunately those that have or had been diagnosed with melanoma/Skin cancer have a high possibility of getting it again. Please go to a medical profesional provider to seek any advise or appropriate diagnosis. For any medical emergency please call 9-1-1. Melanoma & Skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to sun & ultraviolet (UV) rays. To lower your risk of getting skin cancer, you can protect your skin from UV rays, from the sun, from lasers, and from artificial sources like tanning beds and sunlamps. Please, do your yearly skin & nail check with a medical professional. 🤕☀️🧴 memelanomaawarenessmonthemelanomaawarenessemelanomaandskincancerawarenessmonthpspfimineralspfacancerreconstructivesurgeryeceravemineralsunscreenalarocheposaymineralspfemelanomaresearchallianceacancerfreeeheadtissueexpansionc#scalpflapreconstructionsurgery
Sierra had tissue expanders surgically put in her head, and kept in for a few months, prior to undergoing scalp reconstruction surgery.
Following her reconstructive surgery, which took place earlier this year, Sierra said in March, “The scars are barely noticeable, I’m still having nerve shocks, pain, and sharp pains, but bearable, and there’s no signs of hair growth is some spots.”
Sierra has recently been getting back to her skincare and makeup routine and sharing it with her followers as she continues to urge everyone to check their skin for signs of cancer.
Melanoma Monday 🖤 May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month! This month let’s all wear SPF daily (and re- apply) and protect our skin from too much sun/UV exposure and artificiallight sources. 🤕☀️🧴 A recommendation from my dermatologist, the most recognized as safe and effective sunblock that is best for all skin types by the FDA is any Mineral SPF that contains Zinc and Titanium Dioxide.🧴 @Alondra Sierra Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give color to the skin become cancerous. It can grow and spread very rapidly, immediate attention should be given to avoid it reaching an organ or from spreading any further. It can be diagnosed to any age, gender, or skin type. And unfortunately those that have or had been diagnosed with Melanoma/Skin cancer have a high possibility of getting it again. Melanoma & Skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to sun & ultraviolet (UV) rays. To lower your risk of getting skin cancer, you can protect your skin from UV rays, sun exposure, lasers, and from artificial light sources like tanning beds, nail lamps, and sunlamps. Please, do your yearly skin & nail check with a medical professional. Go to a medical profesional to seek any advise or appropriate diagnosis. For any medical emergency please call 9-1-1. #melanomaawarenessmonth #melanomamonday #melanomaandskincancerawarenessmonth #melanomaawareness #ceravemineralsunscreen #larocheposaymineralspf #cancerfree #melanomaresearchalliance #cancerreconstructivesurgery #mineralspf #scalpflapreconstructionsurgery
Learning about Melanoma
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.
Top 5 Ways to Protect Your Skin From Skin Cancer
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 remember having on your skin could be signs of this cancer, according to SurvivorNet’s experts.
MORE: Examining Your Skin for Melanoma Remember ABCDE
Dr. Cecilia Larocca of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute gives SurvivorNet an overview of things to look out for with moles using the ABCDE self-screening method:
- 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.
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.
Dr. Nima Gharavi Explains How Surgery Is Used To Remove Skin Cancer
“The gold standard for treatment of melanoma is surgical treatment with wide margins,” Dr. Nima Gharavi, Director of Dermatologic Surgery at Cedars-Sinai, told SurvivorNet in an earlier interview.
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
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