Q. I have ocular melanoma and there is very little written about it. Do you have any websites or places you would recommend for more information?
Melanomas begin in cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce the skin pigment called melanin which gives skin its color. While the majority of melanomas form on the skin, melanocytes are also present in other tissues of the body. When melanoma forms in the eye, it is know as ocular melanoma. Ocular melanoma is the most common form of eye cancer in adults, and accounts for five percent of all melanomas. It is estimated that every year 2,500 adults living in the United States will be diagnosed with ocular melanoma.
Other organizations that might also be helpful to you include:
Finally, the National Cancer Institute offers up-to-date treatment information: Intraocular (Eye) Melanoma Treatment.
Q. My husband has black moles on his face - could this be melanoma? How serious are they if they change?
Moles are pigmented colored cells that can appear anywhere on our bodies. Having moles on our bodies does not necessarily mean they are cancer or will become cancerous. Simultaneously however, it is important to note that any change in a mole in size, color, and texture should be examined by a medical dermatologist. To help recognize the signs of melanoma, the American Academy of Dermatology created the ABCDEs of melanoma detection:
- Asymmetry: One half of the mole or pigmented spot is different than the other half
- Borders: The mole or spot has irregular or poorly defined borders
- Colors: Color is varied from one area to another. Includes shades of tan, brown, black (also can include white, red or blue)
- Diameter: Spot is usually greater than 6mm (size of pencil eraser)
- Evolving: A mole or spot that looks different from others or changes in size, shape, or color.
Your husband should have the moles on his face (and any others) checked out by a doctor. You can search for a dermatologist through the American Academy of Dermatology’s Find a Dermatologist database. The National Cancer Institute offers information about preventing skin cancer and melanoma. Additionally, the Melanoma Research Foundation provides a wealth of information about the prevention and treatment of melanoma.
Q. How do I find doctors who specialize in treating melanoma?
Finding a doctor who specializes in melanoma and skin cancers can significantly improve the recovery process and cancer survivorship. It’s important to find a doctor who understands the intricacies and dynamics of living with a melanoma diagnosis. You want to find a doctor who regularly treats melanoma and can address the needs of people living with this type of cancer. A dermatologist, for instance, would be more informed about melanoma. Although a doctor’s personality should not impact treatment, it can be extremely helpful if we feel comfortable speaking with our doctor.
To find a doctor who specializes in treating melanoma you may first want to consult with your primary care physician and request a referral. Your family members, friends or colleagues may know of a doctor who specializes in this type of cancer. A representative from your health insurance company may also assist you in seeking a doctor whose specialty is melanoma. Speaking with your insurance representative would also help you understand your coverage and learn whether or not you would be allowed to go out of network to see a specialist.
Understanding your doctor’s credentials and training can be helpful in making educated decisions regarding your diagnosis and treatment. Pay attention to a doctor’s credentials and don’t be afraid to ask about his/her education and training. Some doctors including dermatologists may choose additional training in their specialty.
When searching for a doctor, some questions to ask yourself include:
- Does this doctor have the appropriate education and training to address my type of cancer?
- Will this doctor listen to my needs and treat me with respect?
- Does this doctor clearly explain treatment options to me that I understand and encourage me to ask questions about my diagnosis and treatment?
- Do I feel as if I am an important part of the medical team?
Finding the right treatment facility for you is equally as important to finding the right doctor. Locating a comprehensive cancer center, for instance, may provide access to a number of doctors to whom you could reach out and learn about treatment options and alternatives for you to consider.
In discussing your melanoma diagnosis, questions to ask include:
- How large is the tumor and has it metastasized?
- Will surgery alone be able to remove the cancer or will I need additional treatment?
- What are the treatments available for my type of cancer?
- Are there any potential side effects related to my treatment?
- Am I at risk for a recurrence of melanoma or other type of cancer?
- How frequently will I have to follow up with you?
And finally, the American Academy of Dermatology provides a Find a Dermatologist database through their website.