What Does Nodular Melanoma Look Like?
Nodular melanoma is a type of skin cancer that affects the epidermis (the outermost layer) of the skin. The term “nodules” refers to these tumors. They are usually found in areas where there have been sun exposure such as on the back, arms, legs, chest and face. These cancers are not curable but they do tend to grow slowly over time.
The most common location for nodular melanomas is the trunk, which makes up about 80% of all cases. Other locations include the palms of hands, soles of feet, scalp and armpits. There are several types of nodular melanomas: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
There are two forms of nodular melanoma: diffuse and invasive. Diffuse nodular melanoma occurs when the tumor spreads from one part of the body to another. Invasive nodular melanoma occurs when the tumor grows into other organs or tissues in the body.
The majority of patients with invasive nodular melanoma die within five years after diagnosis.
Diffuse nodular melanomas are often called “pink” nodular melanomas because they look like a pink skinned to the touch. In some cases, diffuse nodular melanomas may have colors that include red and purple whereas invasive nodular melanomas are typically black or brown.
The skin cancer is usually diagnosed by a medical professional at first sight. A skin lesion and the area around it will be inspected in order to determine if it is a type of skin cancer. Usually, a cancerous growth is either felt or seen by a medical professional.
The size of the nodular melanoma may vary from a pea-sized lump to that of a lemon. Nodular melanomas are difficult to detect and promote early detection through self-inspection of the skin and seeing a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin conditions) on a regular basis.
If nodular melanomas are found and treated early, the prognosis is good. Early detection through self-inspection of the skin and seeing a dermatologist regularly can lead to a quick diagnosis and treatment. Nodular melanomas are rarely diagnosed in later stages, which makes the chance of survival significantly lower.
The 5-year relative survival rate for patients with this cancer is only about 53%.
Surgery, Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy are the most common types of treatment for nodular melanoma.
Surgery is used to remove the tumor using a local anesthetic. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body then the method of surgery will be different and tailored to the organs or tissues that are affected. The type of surgery used will also depend on how advanced the cancer is at the time of diagnosis.
For example, if there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes then surgeons may have to perform a sentinel node biopsy. The purpose of sentinel node biopsy is to identify if the cancer has spread to any of the nearby lymph nodes. This is important because if there are any cancer cells in nearby lymph nodes then these will be removed during surgery as well. The method for removing nodular melanomas that have spread to other parts of the body is slightly different from those that have not.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are common methods of treating advanced and metastatic (stage IV) nodular melanomas. The side effects of both of these methods can be strong and may result in problems with the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
Nodular Melanomas can spread from the original location to nearby parts of the skin as well as to organs and tissues that are at a distance from the original location. It is important to catch nodular melanomas early because if they are not treated they will continue to grow and spread to other parts of the body.
Other possible complications of nodular melanomas can include:
Infection of the lesion
Spread of the cancer to other parts of the body and metastasizing to organs and tissues that are at a distance from the original location.
Recurrence of cancer after treatment
Tumors can grow back after treatment. With standard treatment, the chance of recurrence is about 50% at 5 years and about 70% at 10 years.
The survival rate for patients with nodular melanomas is different from case to case. The outlook for patients with this cancer depends upon several factors including the following:
The size of the tumor
Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body
The treatment received
The patient’s age and overall health at the time of diagnosis.
Even with treatment, the outlook for patients with nodular melanomas is not very good. The 5-year relative survival rate for this type of cancer is only about 53%.
Sources & references used in this article:
Outcomes and prognostic factors in nodular melanomas by ME Egger, EM Dunki-Jacobs, GG Callender, AR Quillo… – Surgery, 2012 – Elsevier
Superficial melanomas of oral mucous membranes by JA Regezi, JR Hayward, TN Pickens – Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral …, 1978 – Elsevier
Melanoma of the Trunk and Limbs Including Superficial and Nodular Melanoma by J Malvehy, S Puig – Color Atlas of Melanocytic Lesions of the Skin, 2007 – Springer
Melanomas of the palm, sole, and nailbed: a clinicopathologic study by GE Feibleman, H Stoll, JC Maize – Cancer, 1980 – Wiley Online Library