Being diagnosed with melanoma can be overwhelming. This is a serious form of skin cancer. But it's important to know that melanoma treatment has come far.
And at UVA Health, you'll find a nationally recognized melanoma treatment program. You'll have a team of experts who focus their careers on helping people fight melanoma.
Melanoma Treatment at UVA Health
UVA Health is home to Virginia's first National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. This title means we're a leader in cancer research, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
At UVA Health, you'll find all the elements of an outstanding melanoma treatment program:
- The expertise of a dermatopathologist to make sure you get a precise diagnosis and the most effective treatment.
- Surgeons specially trained to operate on melanoma (surgical oncologists). This skillset reduces the chances of melanoma returning and the need for more surgeries.
- Plastic surgeons and head & neck surgeons who specialize in complex reconstruction. This expertise is important after we remove melanoma from sensitive areas such as the nose, ear, or foot.
- Radiation oncology experts who specialize in cancers that start in the skin.
- Leaders in melanoma care who help develop new treatments and push the boundaries of research.
- Lots of experience in immunotherapy. This helps boost your own immune system to fight melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body.
- Access to clinical trials, including early-phase trials, available nowhere else in the region.
Care Centered Around You
Our entire team works together and partners with you to develop your personalized treatment plan. If you have a complex case, we'll review it at our weekly tumor board. This is a meeting of experts from across all cancer specialties at UVA Health. They'll look at your case from every angle and recommend the approach to give you the best possible outcome.
Get a Second Opinion
For expert, compassionate melanoma care, you can count on UVA Health. Our doctors can give you a second opinion on your cancer diagnosis or care plan.
When coming to UVA Health, you'll have all the doctors you need in one place. We can coordinate clinic visits with experts in medical or surgical oncology, and even with experts in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Cancer of the Skin
Surgical oncologist Lynn Dengel, MD walks us through melanoma risk factors and treatment. View transcript.
Melanoma is a cancer of a cell called the melanocyte. When that cell mutates and starts growing without regulation, it can become invasive. Some types of melanoma can spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma is most common in the skin. But it may also arise in other areas:
- Eyes (uveal melanoma)
- Nail beds
- Soles of feet
- Lymph nodes
- Digestive system
- Rectal and vaginal areas
Melanomas are not usually painful. They often have no symptoms at first.
The first sign is often a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. Melanoma may also appear as a new, dark, discolored, or abnormal mole. Remember that most people have moles. Almost all moles are benign.
A mole may be a melanoma if you notice any of these signs:
- Uneven shape
- Ragged edges
- Uneven color
- Large size
Learn more about how to prevent skin cancer and screening.
Who's At Risk for Melanoma?
The most common risk factor for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The sun is the most common source of this radiation. But it is also found in sun lamps and tanning booths.
Melanoma occurs most often in older adults. But it's happening more often in younger adults. While rare, melanoma also occurs in children. Other factors that increase the risk of melanoma include:
- Use of tanning beds
- Certain types of moles called dysplastic nevi, or atypical moles
- Large nevi present at birth
- Fair skin, freckling
- Red or blonde hair
- Light-colored eyes
- Caucasian race
- Family members with melanoma
- Excessive skin exposure to the sun without protective clothing or sunscreen
- Suppressed immune system