Superficial spreading melanoma is also known as superficially spreading melanoma or SSM.
It is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for almost 70% of cases that are diagnosed.
There is a correlation between sun-exposed areas of the body and the occurrence of superficial spreading melanoma. In men it often develops on their backs and in women it is usually seen on their legs.
How does it work?
Early detection is one of the best forms of treatment for superficial spreading melanoma. The tumors can spread wide and deep into the body, so the sooner they are discovered the easier they are to remove.
If there is a history of melanoma in someone’s family or if they have had a lot of exposure to the sun they may want to have a doctor do a skin exam each year. Also, people with 100 or more moles are susceptible to developing superficial spreading melanoma. Treatment works by first diagnosing and staging the tumor as accurately as possible and then creating a treatment plan.
The main focus of superficial spreading melanoma treatment is to remove the entire tumor while removing as little healthy tissue as possible. In general surgeons will remove 1-2 cm of healthy tissue around the tumor. The larger the tumor is the larger margin they use. In the 1970’s surgeons often removed 3-5 cm of healthy tissue, but over the years studies have shown that this is not more beneficial to the health of the patient.
Types of treatment for superficial spreading melanoma include wide local excision and sentinel node biopsy. Wide local excision is removal of the tumor and the skin around it as discussed above. Sentinel node biopsy is when the physician decides to look at the lymph node that the tumor drains to.
This may or may not be the lymph node that is closest to the tumor. This is usually done before the tumor removal so that the path of the cancer can be determined. Whether or not the superficial spreading melanoma has spread to other parts of the body is an important factor in diagnosing and staging the cancer.
In addition to the lymph nodes melanoma can spread to the brain, bones, and lungs. All of these factors are important to consider when developing the best treatment plan for the patient.
If superficial spreading melanoma is caught and treated early the patient can be successfully treated with very few side effects. If the melanoma is large and removing it begins to interfere with other tissue in the body, then the side effects of treatment could be much worse.
Also, people with superficial spreading melanoma on their faces may experience disfigurement or interference of anatomical functions if a large tumor needs to be removed.