Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that generally appears on the surface of your skin. But not always.
Known as the most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanomas are responsible for the deaths of more than 10,000 people per year in the United States alone. Caused mainly due to exposure to occasional yet intense UV rays, melanoma symptoms are more likely to appear in people who are genetically predisposed to getting this condition. When it comes to skin cancers like melanomas, the common idea that the masses go by is that it is a “skin” cancer, and therefore can only appear on patches of skin that are directly exposed to the sun. However, this is not true when it comes to melanoma symptoms!
In general, when skin cells suffer unrepaired DNA damage that triggers genetic mutations, the affected skin cells become cancerous, start to multiply at an exponential pace, and result in the development of malignant cancers. Melanoma symptoms are generally seen in the form of moles. The cancer develops in the melanocytes that are located in the basal epidermal layer of the skin.
Where You Might See Melanoma Symptoms
According to cancer research, the most common area for men to develop melanoma symptoms is the back/trunk area. Meanwhile, women reported their legs to be the most common site to see melanoma symptoms. While diagnosing melanoma due to irregular moles on the trunk or legs is not an easy prospect, these melanoma symptoms can definitely be watched out for. But you probably didn’t know that melanoma symptoms can appear inside one of the most delicate parts of your body – your eyes.
Not only can your eyes be the place where melanoma symptoms manifest, they can also be the original source site of the melanoma cancer. Melanoma symptoms may either appear in the iris area of your eyes (colored ring around the pupil) or even inside your eye. Melanocytes are the cells responsible for pigmentation and coloring in the skin. Of course, melanocytes are found in abundance in the skin, but they are also found in the lips and the lining of delicate organs such as the eyes.
Eye melanoma symptoms can be seen in areas such as the eyeball, the conjunctiva (covering on the front of the eyeball) and the eyelid. Extraocular cancers (in the conjunctiva and eyelid) are very rare. While eyeball melanoma is rare too, it is the most common type of eye cancer found in adults.
Melanoma Symptoms to Watch Out For
If the cancer starts in your iris area, diagnosis may be easier. In the earlier stages, eye melanoma symptoms may be spotted by your optician or doctor during a regular eye check-up. This cancer grows very slowly, and generally does not spread to other parts of the body. If iris melanoma symptoms are not spotted early by your eye specialist, you may be able to see a distinct dark spot in the iris area. However, iris cancers form only about 10 percent of all eyeball melanoma cases.
The other 90 percent of eyeball melanomas start in the choroid area of the eye. In this case, the cancer starts inside the choroidal tissues that are present in the middle layer of the eyeball. This layer is also known as the uvea or uveal layer. The problem with choroidal melanomas is that there are no visible discolorations in the eye that you can watch out for, i.e. there are no outward melanoma symptoms in this case. However, melanoma symptoms include changes in your eyesight. This is one of the reasons why choroidal eye melanomas are generally diagnosed by an optician or eye specialist when you walk in for a routine eye examination.
Depending on the melanoma symptoms and epidemiology of the cancerous cells, they are further classified into three types. Spindle cell melanomas comprise of long stretched out cells, while non-spindle cell melanomas are made from oval/round cells which are generally harder to treat and have a bigger chance of spreading to other parts of the body. The last type is a mix of spindle and non-spindle cells.
Once you notice these melanoma symptoms inside your delicate eye and get a clinical diagnosis, the treatment process can begin in earnest. Treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy, or a combination of both.