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Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, accounts for more than 76,000 cases of skin cancer annually.

Melanoma Symptoms and Diagnosis

The best screening for skin cancer is a self-exam of your skin. Any signs or symptoms should be discussed with your physician. An easy way to remember melanoma symptoms and signs is the “ABCDEs” of melanoma:

Asymmetry: Moles that are unequal in size from one half to the other.
Border: Moles with irregular, scalloped or undefined border.
Color: Variations in mole color (including tan to brown, black, red or blue)
Diameter: Moles with a diameter larger than a pencil eraser (> 6 mm)
Elevation: Moles that are raised (elevated) from the skin.

Patients who present with suspicious melanoma symptoms to their primary care physician will most likely undergo a biopsy (for melanoma detection) of potentially affected tissue by a dermatologist or a surgeon. Diagnosis is then confirmed through pathology tests of the tissue.

If a melanoma diagnosis is made, the physician will determine the severity or stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other areas of the body.

Personalized Melanoma Treatment

Malignant melanoma of the skin has the fastest rising incidence of any cancer in the United States. This disease has a higher chance of spreading than other forms of skin cancer. While melanoma treatment options remain limited, Kellogg Cancer Center's multidisciplinary melanoma program offers the depth and breadth of experience necessary to utilize photographic screening, minimally invasive surgery and advanced immunotherapy options. NorthShore also treats other rare forms of skin cancer, including Merkel cell carcinoma.

For patients with late stage melanoma, NorthShore is one of the few institutions in the region to offer immunotherapy with high-dose bolus Interleukin-2 therapy and Ipilimumab. The administration of Interleukin-2 is extremely complex, and NorthShore has the requirements of both highly knowledgeable oncologists and a specialized nursing staff.

Administering Ipilimumab is very involved, with unique autoimmune side effects that can affect multiple organ systems and require attention from multiple specialists. Our endocrinology and gastroenterology programs are key components of the multidisciplinary team caring for patients utilizing this drug.

Recently, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved several drugs for patients who have specific mutations in the BRAF and related genes. NorthShore’s Molecular Pathology Department is one of the few programs testing for this mutation on-site, allowing for very quick implementation of this lifesaving drug.

Personalized melanoma treatment and multimodal strategies combining surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and sophisticated medications may be used in combination to ensure optimal outcomes for patients with more advanced disease.

In some cases, melanoma may spread or recur within an arm or leg, which can be painful or disfiguring and poses the threat of spreading to other organs. NorthShore has one of only a few programs in the country that performs complex isolated limb perfusions and isolated limb infusions to provide effective therapy for these difficult presentations. These procedures offer excellent response rates while avoiding radical or disfiguring surgery.

NorthShore’s highly trained specialists also are able to perform stereotactic radiosurgery and laser thermal ablation for patients with brain metastases—cases in which melanoma has spread to the brain. These advanced melanoma treatment options allow neurosurgical experts teamed with radiation oncologists to precisely target various tumors in hard-to-reach areas of the brain where conventional surgery is not an option.

Among the most promising developments in cancer treatment in recent years is immunotherapy. For decades, researchers have been trying to understand why the body’s immune system does not see cancer cells as foreign and attack them. Unlike chemotherapy, which attacks cancer cells, immunotherapy targets the patient’s immune system, spurring the body’s own immune function to unleash an attack on the disease. NorthShore has been an early adopter of immunotherapy, offering progressive treatment options to our patients and supporting ongoing clinical trials and research to further advance this revolutionary field.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.