Melanoma: Conditions & Treatments
The specialists at the UC Irvine Health Melanoma Center are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma and other cancers of the skin.
We treat all types of skin cancers, including:
Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, begins as a mole or other pigmented tissue. Left untreated, it can invade other parts of the body and be fatal. It occurs most frequently on the torso in men and on the legs in women. Each year, more than 68,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma.
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cancer that develops on or just below the surface of the skin, often in parts of the body exposed to the sun. It most frequently occurs in older people and those with weakened immune systems.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, making up about 75 percent of all U.S. skin cancer cases. Rarely life threatening, it can be disfiguring if allowed to grow unchecked. Basal cell cancer primarily occurs on the face and neck and is characterized by pimples that don’t heal, unyielding red bumps and red, scaly areas that are usually smaller than a pencil eraser. Basal cell carcinoma has a very low rate of metastasis (spreading to other parts of the body).
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. It often appears as a firm red bump, an abnormal patch of skin, or a sore that bleeds and does not heal. It is highly treatable, but it can metastasize (spread elsewhere in the body). It occurs most commonly on sun-exposed areas such as the back of the hand, scalp, lip and upper portion of the ear.
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is caused when certain white blood cells become malignant and multiply within the skin. This cancer is slow-growing, usually developing over many years. In its earliest stage, CTCL can resemble eczema or psoriasis. The skin may have red, scaly patches that are sometimes raised. Itching is a common symptom. There also may be more lumps on the skin and some patients develop swollen lymph nodes.
Cutaneous sarcomas are malignant tumors of the skin and connective tissue. They do not arise from squamous cells, basal cells or melanocytes, but rather from the supporting tissue of skin cells. There are many varieties and they can be very aggressive.
They may look like squamous or basal cell cancers with ulcerations, but they also can appear as red bumps or small, smooth swellings. Many of these sarcomas can be treated with wide local excision. In aggressive cases, adjuvant radiation therapy, sentinel node biopsy and plastic reconstructive surgery also may be required. Examples include malignant epithelioid sarcoma, atypical fibroxanthoma, leiomyosarcoma and fibrous histiocytoma.
Diagnosis and staging
Our specialists are equipped with the most advanced technology and latest techniques to diagnosis of all types of skin cancers. They include:
A diagnosis of skin cancer typically involves an initial biopsy, usually done on an outpatient basis. In a biopsy, all or part of a suspicious growth is removed and examined under a microscope in order to determine whether cancer cells are present and, if so, what kind.
Our specialists also use SIAscopy™, one of the most advanced melanoma imaging systems in the world. The Melanoma Center is one of the few facilities in California to use SIAscopy, which takes high-resolution images of the skin that are analyzed for indicators of various skin diseases. SIAscopy™ is painless, noninvasive and helps physicians monitor and diagnose different types of skin cancers without biopsies. With these imaging technologies, and the expertise of our specialists in skin pathology, our physicians are able to determine the spread of the disease throughout the body. This can involve image-guided biopsies to determine the extent of lymph node involvement, as well as sentinel lymph node dissections when indicated.
If skin cancer is found, UC Irvine Health skin cancer experts offer a wide range of the most advanced treatments and therapies. Some of the most common include:
- Surgery and sentinel lymph node biopsy
Surgery is the primary treatment for melanoma. It involves excising the tumor and the tissue margins around it. If the tumor goes deep into the skin, nearby lymph nodes may be removed and examined to determine if they contain cancer cells. Melanoma that has spread to other organs may require further surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
- Mohs micrographic surgery
For the earliest form of melanoma, Mohs micrographic surgery is used, usually on an outpatient basis, to excise the visible tumor along with smallest possible fragments of surrounding margin. Additional fragments are removed in sequence and examined under a microscope until the pathologist determines that all the cancer cells have been eliminated.
The Melanoma Center team includes highly skilled UC Irvine plastic surgeons who are experts in reconstructive surgery.
High-energy rays are sometimes used for areas that are difficult to treat surgically, such as the eyelid, tip of the nose and the ear, and to help provide a greater margin of tumor clearance. Our radiation oncologists are experts in several modalities of radiation energy for tumor treatment. For cases of metastatic brain melanoma, we offer Gamma Knife® treatment, also called stereotactic radiosurgery.
Medical oncologists at the Melanoma Center have extensive expertise in treating metastatic melanoma. These treatments include novel chemotherapy regimens, targeted molecular therapy, anti-angiogenesis therapy and immunotherapy with interferon, interleukin-2 and the newly approved melanoma drug, Yervoy™.
At the Melanoma Center, our team of specialists works together to develop a treatment plan tailored to each patient’s needs. Individual treatment plans are based on the:
- Type of skin cancer
- Location and size of the cancer
- Microscopic growth patterns of the cancer cells
- The patient’s age and overall health
- Patient comfort and convenience
For more information or to request a consultation, please call us at 714-456-8000.