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Melanoma is a type of cancer that forms in the cells that produces the melanin in your skin 1. Melanoma takes the lives of over 8,650 people every year -- although it is the most curable of all skin cancers, explains the American Cancer Society. If you have been recently diagnosed with melanoma, one of the first signs of the disease is weight loss. If you are experiencing weight loss and have a mole that has changed shape or color, see your doctor immediately.
Melanoma occurs in people who have had excessive UV exposure but it can also stem from genetic and environmental factors, notes the Mayo Clinic. Melanoma generally starts off with a change in your existing mole or birth mark. Within the melanocytes, melanoma begins to take its shape 1. Following the basic ABCD and Es of melanoma, this tool can help you detect melanoma or other pre-cancerous skin lesions early on. Asymmetry. Think about what the mole would look like divided straight down the middle – if it would fold over to meet the same edges, it may be a sign of skin cancer. B stands for Border. Do you have a mole or skin spot that has a jagged edge? C is for color. Melanoma is known for turning an ugly color on your skin such as black, blue or gray – if the color of the mole changes colors or has other colors inside of it, it could be melanoma. D stands for diameter. A mole that is larger than the head of a pencil eraser should be examined. E is for elevation. A mole that rises above the skin’s surface needs to be looked at by a dermatologist.
Aside of recognizing that you have changes in your skin, you may also feel ill. One of the most common signs of skin cancer are feelings of generally malaise or like you have the flu. Headache, tiredness, feeling run down, loss of appetite and nausea are symptoms that your body is working to fight off the cancer and illness. Your loss of appetite can result in weight loss. If you have been recently diagnosed, weight loss could stem from the stress of the disease and the worry about your future health.
In advanced cases of melanoma, weight loss could be a sign that the disease has spread to surrounding lymph nodes or organs – this is called metastases. Metastases is common with melanoma because the cancer is very aggressive. Once the cancer spreads to other vital organs such as your liver, kidneys, lungs or brain, your body may respond through vomiting – making getting the right nutrition challenging.
Treating melanoma will be determined by your dermatologist and oncologist. Removal is almost always a priority as well as surgery in order to remove cancerous tumors or lymph nodes which the cancer cells that may have spread to. Another form of treatment is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy consists of a combination of nitrosoureas, methylating agents and taxanes, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. Chemotherapy drugs can cause nausea, vomiting which can lead to extreme weight loss and malnutrition. Immunotherapy and radiation may also be considered, depending on the severity of your cancer.
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