Melanoma / Sarcoma
What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It begins in skin cells called melanocytes. Though melanoma is predominantly found on the skin, it can even occur in the eye (uveal melanoma).
Melanocytes are the cells that make melanin, which gives skin its color. Melanin also protects the deeper layers of the skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
When people spend time in the sunlight, the melanocytes make more melanin and cause the skin to tan. This also happens when skin is exposed to other forms of ultraviolet light (such as in a tanning booth). If the skin receives too much ultraviolet light, the melanocytes may begin to grow abnormally and become cancerous. This condition is called melanoma.
How and where does melanoma appear?
The first sign of melanoma is often a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole. But melanoma can also appear on the body as a new mole.
- In men, melanoma most often shows up:
- on the upper body, between the shoulders and hips
- on the head and neck
In women, melanoma often develops on the lower legs.
- In dark-skinned people, melanoma often appears:
- under the fingernails or toenails
- on the palms of the hands
- on the soles of the feet
Although these are the most common places on the body for melanomas to appear, they can appear anywhere on the skin. That's why it is important to always examine your skin to check for new moles or changes in moles
With early diagnosis and treatment, the chances of recovery are very good.
The chance of getting melanoma increases as you get older, but people of any age can get melanoma. In fact, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults (ages 25 to 29). Each year, more than 50,000 people in the U.S. learn that they have melanoma.
Melanoma is a serious and sometimes life-threatening cancer. If melanoma is found and treated in its early stages, the chances of recovery are very good. If it is not found early, melanoma can grow deeper into the skin and spread to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis.
Once melanoma has spread to other parts of the body beyond the skin, it is difficult to treat.
What Is Sarcoma?
Sarcoma is the name applied to a variety of malignant tumors that occur in fat, tendon, muscle, bone, cartilage, and nerve cells. Sarcomas are rare in comparison to carcinomas, which develop in the glands and organs of the body such as lung, breast, and prostate. It is estimated that 7,500-8,000 new sarcomas occur annually in the U.S. out of a total of over 1 million new cancer cases per year. About 1% off all adult cancer is sarcoma, while 15-20% of all children’s cancers are sarcomas.
How and where does sarcoma appear?
Sarcoma can arise anywhere in the body, frequently hidden deep in the limbs. They are hard to diagnose, hard to detect and hard to treat. Biopsy is the only diagnostic tool and surgery often the only curative treatment.
Symptoms of sarcoma can be, but are not limited to, a new or growing lump, abdominal pains, blood in your stool or vomit, and black, tarry stools. Since symptoms of sarcomas often do not appear until the disease is advanced, only about 50% of soft tissue sarcomas are found in the early stages, before they have spread.
How can I diagnose if I have sarcoma?
If a soft tissue sarcoma is suspected, a biopsy will be done. The type of biopsy that is done will be based on the size and location of the tumor. There are two types of biopsy that may be used:
- Incisional biopsy: The removal of part of a lump or a sample of tissue.
- Core biopsy: The removal of tissue using a wide needle.
- Excisional biopsy: The removal of an entire lump or area of tissue that doesn’t look normal.
Samples will be taken from the primary tumor, lymph nodes, and other suspicious areas. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells and to find out the grade of the tumor. The grade of a tumor depends on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the cells are dividing. High-grade tumors usually grow and spread more quickly than low-grade tumors. Because soft tissue sarcoma can be hard t diagnose, patients should ask to have biopsy samples checked by a pathologist who has experience in diagnosing soft tissue sarcoma.