Not cancerous - benign cells are not able to spread elsewhere in the body.
The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy. When the whole lump or suspicious area is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy, core biopsy, or fine-needle aspiration.
Basal cell carcinoma (BAY-sal sel KAR-sih-NOH-muh)
A type of skin cancer that arises from the basal cells, small round cells found in the lower part (or base) of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin).
A malignant tumour that is confined to its original site.
The 'building blocks' of the body. A human is made of millions of cells, which are adapted for different functions. Cells are able to reproduce themselves exactly, unless they are abnormal or damaged. Cancer cells are abnormal or damaged.
This is the treatment of cancer with special anti-cancer drugs. The aim is to kill all cancer cells while doing the least possible damage to normal cells. The drugs work by stopping cancer cells from growing and reproducing themselves. Chemotherapy can be given before or after surgery and is usually given by injecting the drugs into a vein (intravenous treatment). There are other ways of having chemotherapy, including tablets. Occasionally, chemotherapy may be given directly into the limb blood vessel, usually for multiple nodules confined within the limb. This is called limb infusion/perfusion. Chemotherapy is occasionally used as palliative treatment for melanoma that cannot be treated by other methods. It is not often able to cure melanoma.
Computerised tomography (CT) scan
Previously known as a CAT scan. A series of x-rays that are built to give a picture of the part x-rayed.
One of two main layers that make up the skin. The dermis is the second layer, which contains the roots of hairs, glands that make sweat, blood vessels, lymph vessels and nerves.
A doctor who has special training to diagnose and treat skin problems
Dysplastic nevi (dis-PLAS-tik NEE-vye)
Atypical moles are moles that look different from ordinary moles. Dysplastic nevi are generally larger than ordinary moles and have irregular and indistinct borders. Their colour frequently is not uniform and ranges from pink to dark brown. They usually are flat, but parts may be raised above the skin surface.
One of two main layers that make up the skin. The epidermis is the surface layer. It contains basal cells, squamous cells (which contain keratin, a protective substance that resists heat, cold and the effects of many chemicals) and melanocytes that produce melanin.
Abnormal redness of the skin resulting from dilation of blood vessels (as in sunburn or inflammation)
The codes contained in DNA in each cell that control the way the body's cells grow and behave. Each person's cells have a set of many thousands of genes inherited from both parents.
An accumulation of blood in the tissues that clots to form a solid swelling.
The body's natural defence system. It helps to protect us against anything it recognises as being an 'invader' or 'foreign' eg, bacteria, viruses, transplanted organs and tissues, cancer cells and parasites.
Most of the current research into melanoma is in the area of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a treatment to stimulate the body's normal cells to attack cancer cells. It works by encouraging the body's natural defence system - the immune system - to attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy is treatment with substances that the body uses to fight infection and disease. Biological therapy is another name for immunotherapy. Vaccine therapy is an example of immunotherapy used to treat melanoma. Clinical trials are testing the effectiveness of immunotherapy in treating melanoma. Your oncologist will be able to discuss these treatments with you. Ask your doctor if you are eligible for a clinical trial.
A potential side effect of a lymph node removal is lymphoedema, a swelling in the part of the body drained by the affected lymph nodes. The best treatment for lymphoedema is a specialised programme of exercise, massage, skin care and a properly fitted support garment or bandage. It is not possible to reverse the swelling on a long-term basis. Contact your local Cancer Society for details of lymphoedema therapists available in your area.
Lymph nodes, lymph vessels, lymphatic system
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures which are part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, which protects the body against 'invaders', like bacteria and parasites. It is a network of small lymph nodes connected by very thin lymph vessels, which branch into every part of the body. The lymph nodes filter the lymph to remove bacteria and other harmful agents, such as cancer cells.
Similar to a CT scan, but this test uses magnetism instead of x-rays to build up cross-sectional pictures of the body.
A tumour that is cancerous and likely to spread if not treated.
Minimal erythemal dose or MED
When you go into the sun, your skin will takes a certain amount of time to burn. This interval is your personal Minimal Erythemal Dose (MED).
The brown pigment, produced by melanocytes, that gives the skin its colour. Its role is to protect the body against the damaging effect of the UV radiation present in sunlight and tanning machines. People with dark skin have more melanocytes than fair-skinned people.
A cell in the skin and eyes that produces and contains the pigment called melanin.
Melanocytes and moles
Melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural colour. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes produce more pigment, causing the skin to tan, or darken. Sometimes, clusters of melanocytes and surrounding tissue form non-cancerous growths called moles (doctors also call a mole a nevus; the plural is nevi). Moles are very common. Most people have between 10 and 40 moles. Moles may be pink, tan, brown, or a colour that is very close to the person's normal skin tone. People who have dark skin tend to have dark moles. Moles can be flat or raised. They are usually round or oval and smaller than a pencil eraser. They may be present at birth or may appear later on - usually before age 40. They tend to fade away in older people. When moles are surgically removed, they normally do not return.
A form of skin cancer that begins in melanocytes (the cells that make the pigment melanin). Melanoma usually begins in a mole.
A cancer vaccine prepared from human melanoma cancer cells. It can be used alone or with other therapy in treating melanoma
Metastasis (plural = metastases)
Also known as secondary(ies). Tumours or masses of cells that develop when cancer cells break away from the original (primary) cancer and are carried by the lymphatic and blood systems to other parts of the body.
A benign growth on the skin that is formed by a cluster of melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). Moles are usually dark, and may be raised from the skin.
A benign growth on the skin, such as a mole. A mole is a cluster of melanocytes and surrounding supportive tissue that usually appears as a tan, brown, or flesh-coloured spot on the skin. The plural of nevus is nevi (NEE-vye).
A doctor who specializes in treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment eg, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation.
Ozone is found throughout the atmosphere, but most of it is in the higher atmosphere about 15 to 50km above earth. It is very important to life because it acts like a giant shield against the sun's harmful radiation. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is made up of three parts: UVA, UVB and UVC. UV radiation is known to cause sunburn, skin cancer and eye disease. It can also affect the body's immune system. Ozone and other gases absorb all of the UVC and most of the UVB radiation. The UVA is not greatly affected by ozone.
Controlling the symptoms of a disease rather than curing it.
Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of the disease, side effects caused by treatment of the disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to the disease or its treatment. Also called comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management.
Palliative treatment relieves or reduces symptoms of illness, including pain. It aims to promote comfort, relieve symptoms and maximise quality of life. It is a very important type of treatment for people with advanced cancer, who cannot be cured but can expect to live without undue pain and distress. General practitioners, specialists and palliative care teams in hospitals all play important roles in palliative treatment for people with cancer.
A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
An inactive substance or preparation given and used in controlled studies, such as clinical trials, to determine the efficacy of medical treatments.
A surgeon who specializes in reducing scarring or disfigurement that may occur as a result of accidents, birth defects, or treatment for diseases.
The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.
The transmission of energy by electromagnetic waves or particles.
Radiation therapy treats melanoma by using radiation to kill or injure melanoma cells. The radiation can be precisely targeted onto melanoma sites in your body. Treatment is carefully planned to do as little harm as possible to your normal body tissue. It may be given to shrink the tumour and/or to reduce the likelihood of recurrence within the area being treated. The treatment is usually given over several weeks. The length of treatment will depend on the size and type of the cancer and on your general health.
Checking for disease when there are no symptoms.
Cancer that forms in tissues of the skin. When cancer forms in cells that make pigment, it is called melanoma. When cancer forms in cells that do not make pigment it may begin in basal cells (small, round cells in the base of the outer layer of skin) or squamous cells (flat cells that form the surface of the skin). Both types of skin cancer usually occur in skin that has been exposed to sunlight, such as the skin on the face, neck, hands, and arms.
Sometimes a skin graft is required to cover the wound. For the graft the surgeon will take a layer of skin from another part of your body and place it over the wound.
The other possibility is a 'flap', where the surgeon will close the wound using a nearby flap of skin. Either way, the wound will be covered with a dressing and left undisturbed for several days. It will then be checked to see if it is healing properly. You will also have dressings on any area from which the skin was taken for a graft.
A solarium is an enclosed sunbed that has light tubes that emit radiation from above and below. They use mainly ultraviolet A (UVA) and a small amount of ultraviolet B (UVB). There are also similar devices like sun lamps that you stand in front of or angle over your skin. UVA penetrates the top layer of the skin and causes damage to the lower layer. This causes skin to age prematurely. Other effects include roughening, blotchiness, wrinkling and general looseness of the skin. The more exposure you have to UV radiation, the more chance you have of developing skin cancer.
A precancerous condition of thick, scaly patches of skin. Also called actinic or senile keratosis
An instrument for measuring the intensity of radiation as a function of wavelength.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales. Squamous cells are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Also called epidermoid carcinoma.
Performing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan the best treatment.
SPF or Sun protection factor
A scale for rating the level of sunburn protection in sunscreen products. The higher the SPF, the more sunburn protection it gives. Sunscreens with an SPF value of 2 through 11 give minimal protection against sunburns. Sunscreens with an SPF of 12 through 29 give moderate protection. Those with an SPF of 30 or higher give high protection against sunburn.
A substance that helps protect the skin from the sun's harmful rays. Sunscreens reflect, absorb, and scatter both ultraviolet A and B radiation to provide protection against both types of radiation. Using lotions, creams, or gels that contain sunscreens can help protect the skin from premature aging and damage that may lead to skin cancer.
Stage I melanoma
Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB. In stage IA, the tumor is not more than 1 millimetre thick, with no ulceration. The tumor is in the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and upper layer of the dermis (inner layer of skin). In stage IB, the tumor is either not more than 1 millimetre thick, with ulceration, and may have spread into the dermis or the tissue below the skin; or 1 to 2 millimetres thick, with no ulceration.
Stage I skin cancer
The tumor is no larger than 2 centimetres.
Stage II melanoma
Stage II is divided into stages IIA, IIB, and IIC. In stage IIA, the tumor is either 1 to 2 millimeters thick, with ulceration; or 2 to 4 millimeters thick, with no ulceration. In stage IIB, the tumor is either 2 to 4 millimeters thick, with ulceration; or more than 4 millimeters thick, with no ulceration. In stage IIC, the tumor is more than 4 millimeters thick, with ulceration.
Stage II skin cancer
The tumor is larger than 2 centimeters.
Stage IIB melanoma
Melanoma in which the tumor is more than 4 millimeters thick. It has spread through the lower part of the inner layer of skin (dermis) and into subcutaneous (under the skin) tissue, but not to nearby lymph nodes.
Stage III melanoma
The tumor may be any thickness, with or without ulceration (formation of a break on the skin or surface of an organ), and:
- has spread to one or more lymph nodes, or
- has spread into the nearby lymph system, but not into nearby lymph nodes, or
- has spread to lymph nodes that are matted (not moveable), or
- satellite tumors (additional tumor growths within two centimeters of the original tumor) are present and nearby lymph nodes are involved.
Stage III skin cancer
Cancer has spread below the skin to cartilage, muscle, or bone and/or to nearby lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body.
A new or abnormal growth of tissue on or in the body. Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Ultraviolet Protection Factor is a scale relating how much UVR material can block out.
- 15, 20 = good protection with 93% to 95% of UV radiation blocked
- 25, 30, 35 = very good protection with 96% to 97% of UV radiation blocked
- 40, 45, 50, 50+ = excellent protection with more than 98% of UV radiation blocked
UV radiation (ul-tra VYE-o-let ray-dee-AY-shun)
Invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. UV radiation also comes from sun lamps and tanning beds. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. UV radiation that reaches the Earth's surface is made up of two types of rays, called UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more likely than UVA rays to cause sunburn, but UVA rays pass deeper into the skin. Scientists have long thought that UVB radiation can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. They now think that UVA radiation also may add to skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and cause premature aging. For this reason, skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that reflect, absorb, or scatter both kinds of UV radiation.