November 30, 2022

What is melanoma, the type of cancer that Guillermo Lasso was diagnosed with, and how is it treated?

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(CNN Spanish) — Melanoma, a condition that Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso was diagnosed with, is a very common type of skin cancer, but it has a greater chance of invading nearby tissue, according to the US National Cancer Institute. (NIH)

Melanoma treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, and even immunotherapy, among other options.

This is what you should know about melanoma.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer in which cancer cells form in melanocytes, which are the cells that give skin its color, according to the NIH. This type of cancer can start anywhere on the skin, and some of the early signs to identify it can be seen in changes in the appearance of an area of ​​skin.

It is a “rare” type of skin cancer, according to the NIH, as it is likely to “invade and destroy nearby tissues, and spread to other parts of the body.”

It is very common for melanoma to appear in men in the area of ​​the body that goes from the shoulders to the hips, as well as in the head or neck. And in women, it’s more common in the arms and legs, according to the NIH.

“If melanoma starts on the skin, it is called cutaneous melanoma. Melanoma also appears on the mucous membranes,” says the NIH.

These tips will help you take care of your skin 1:44

What are the warning signs you should be aware of?

There are a number of signs you should be aware of and watch for early detection: “The presence of unusual moles, sun exposure, and medical history influence melanoma risk,” says the National Cancer Institute.

However, the institute clarifies that “the presence of a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer.”

These are some melanoma risk factors that you should avoid.

  • Exposing yourself to excessive sunlight or artificial light (such as from tanning beds)
  • Expose yourself to certain environmental and artificial factors such as radiation, solvents, vinyl chloride.
  • Having a history of sunburn blisters, especially during childhood or adolescence.
  • Having several large moles or many small moles.
  • Having a family or personal history of melanoma.
  • Having fair skin increases the risk of melanoma, but this disease can also be developed by people with dark skin.
  • have a weakened immune system

How is melanoma diagnosed?

The diagnosis of skin cancer is made if you have some risk factors such as a pigmented area that changes or looks abnormal. For this, several procedures are done to see if there is a probability of a diagnosis of melanoma.

  • Physical exam and health history
  • skin exam
  • Biopsy

According to the National Cancer Institute, after a diagnosis of melanoma, more tests are needed to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. For this, procedures such as mapping of lymph nodes, tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound or blood studies are used.

Treatments

There are five types of treatment for this skin disease, according to the NIH.

Surgery, a procedure used to remove the cancerous tumor. It is a primary treatment used for melanoma at any stage.

Chemotherapy, a treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.

Radiation therapy, a treatment based on high-energy x-rays that destroy cancer cells or stop them from multiplying.

Immunotherapy, a biological-type treatment that uses substances made either by the body itself or in a laboratory, in order to “boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer.”

There are also treatments that may depend on the stage of the melanoma. Read more here.

Some figures about melanoma

Melanoma is the 5th most common type of cancer in the United States. according to the National Cancer Institute. It is estimated that by 2022, at least 99,780 new cases will be reported, with some 7,650 deaths.

It is more common in men than women and among fair-skinned people and those who have been exposed to natural or artificial sunlight (such as tanning beds) for long periods of time.

There are more new cases among whites than among any other racial/ethnic group in the United States. And the rate of new skin melanoma cases was 21.5 per 100,000 men and women per year based on cases from 2015 to 2019, according to NIH figures.

The most frequent age of diagnosis is 65 years, according to the NIH, and the mortality rate for this condition is very low: 2.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.



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