When everything is going the way it should in our skin, new cells develop in a predictable, organized way – old cell get pushed up and out towards the skin’s surface by new cells, and the old cells eventually get sloughed off. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong within the cells’ genetic material. Instead of growing in an orderly way, the new cells star to replicate too quickly and this leads to the skin cancer.
There are a number of different types of skin cancers, but melanoma is the most serious. It forms in the cells that give your skin its coloration and is most commonly seen on the areas of the body that have gotten the most exposure to the sun, but they can also occur in unexpected, hidden areas such as the soles of the feet. They also occasionally occur in the eyes and even in the internal organs. The condition is becoming increasingly common, and is being diagnosed in many women under the age of forty.
Most people discover that they have melanoma after they’ve noticed a change in an existing mole or a strange new spot on their skin. Because the condition can appear on areas that you either can’t see or wouldn’t think to examine, having your skin checked regularly is a good preventive measure. Not every skin change is a melanoma, so it’s important to know what to look for.
When a melanoma is suspected, your physician will order a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and to determine the cancer’s stage. Melanoma’s stages are numbered using Roman numerals I through IV, with stage I being small and treatable and stage IV having spread beyond the skin to other organs. This is the most serious form of the disease. Early stage melanomas are usually removed surgically, and may even be removed at the same time that the sample was taken for the biopsy, but when melanoma spreads treatment needs to be more aggressive. Any lymph nodes that have been impacted will be removed and therapies may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biologic al therapies that boost your immune system and targeted therapies.
Though many think that melanoma is easy to treat, advanced stage melanoma can be highly disruptive and even deadly. If you have been diagnosed with melanoma and need information or support, there are several organizations that are specifically dedicated to those suffering from this disease. We have provided information on many here:
AIM at Melanoma Foundation
About AIM at Melanoma Foundation: AIM at Melanoma is globally engaged and locally invested in advancing the battle against melanoma through innovative research, legislative reform, education, and patient and caregiver support.
American Cancer Society
About American Cancer Society: Provides limited direct assistance for travel expenses to and from treatment, childcare and pain/symptom management medications not covered by insurance.
American Melanoma Foundation
About the American Melanoma Foundation: The American Melanoma Foundation supports research for new treatments in melanoma. The organization also serves the general community with education and awareness programs, as well as helping the patient community through patient support groups.
1-800-813-HOPE (4673) / (212) 712-8080
About Cancer Care: Nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to those with cancer, as well as connections with other financial assistance resources. Funding is available for transportation, home care, and child care.
Cancer Fund of America, Inc.
(800) 578-5284/(865) 938-5281
About Cancer Fund of America, Inc.: Provides patient assistance programs that provide certain medical supplies to needy patients.
Fifth Season Financial
About Fifth Season Financial: Fifth Season Financial is a financial assistance resource that works to relieve the financial burden experienced by many late-stage cancer patients. A late-stage cancer diagnosis is devastating to an individual living with cancer as well as their family. In addition to physical and emotional trauma, in many cases, late-stage cancers place a severe financial burden on individuals and their families. Overwhelmed with medical and emotional issues, individuals living with cancer should be focusing on their care and their families, not financial stress. Unfortunately for many in this situation, financial stress is a reality and a significant distraction. Fifth Season’s program provides funds to people living with late-stage cancer by using their life insurance policy as collateral. The ultimate goal of the program is to help relieve financial stress so that people living with cancer can focus on what is most important in their lives. In the last five years, Fifth Season has provided financial assistance of more than $40 million to more than 300 people and their families through their lending program. While they have witnessed the financial challenges confronting individuals living with cancer, they have also witnessed the satisfaction of easing this burden. No credit check. No income requirements.
Melanoma Research Foundation
About The Melanoma Research Foundation: The Melanoma Research Foundation is committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma. The organization also educates patients, caregivers and physicians about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of melanoma. Their website is the premier source for melanoma information seekers, and the organization is also an active advocate for the melanoma community, helping to raise awareness of this disease and the need for a cure.
Skin Cancer Foundation
About The Skin Cancer Foundation: The Skin Cancer Foundation has set the standard for educating the public and the medical profession about skin cancer, its prevention by means of sun protection, the need for early detection, and prompt, effective treatment. It is the only international organization devoted solely to combating the world’s most common cancer, now occurring at epidemic levels.
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