Melanoma Madness

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MELANOMA MADNESS

Melanoma Madness: The Anger and the Anguish

By: Luanne Hanners

SOC 313

Instructor: Ashley Whiting

January 31, 2011

Melanoma Madness: The Anger and the Anguish

The steady increase in the incidence of melanoma and its resistance to chemotherapy, together with its high potential to metastasize have emphasized the importance of its prevention because the key to treating melanoma is early recognition of symptoms. Melanoma is the most devastating form of skin cancer and for patients with melanoma that has spread beyond the skin and nearby lymph nodes, treatment is more difficult and at this point, usually not curable. Melanoma is a rare but very serious type of skin cancer in which the cells lose the ability to divide and grow normally. These abnormal skin cells can grow and from a mass or “tumor”. These tumors are considered benign of the cancer is limited to a few cell layers and does not invade surrounding tissues or organs. If the tumor spreads to surrounding tissues, it is considered malignant, or cancerous. Most skin growths are benign tumors. However, melanoma is a malignant skin growth because it can metastasize, which means it can spread to other parts of the body. When Melanoma spreads to vital organs like the brain or liver, it can be life-threatening. Fortunately, if diagnosed early and treated promptly, Melanoma can have a very high cure rate. ( Health Information Publications, 2009). Melanoma starts in the melanocytes, which are pigment-producing cells found mainly in the epidermis (outer layer of skin). They make a dark material, melanin, which gives skin its natural color. Melanoma is serious because the malignant cells tend to spread rapidly from the skin to the internal organs.

In 2009, the American Melanoma Foundation released the following statistics: • About 1.3 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year and melanoma accounts for 4 percent of those cases. • Each year more than 50,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25 – 29 years old. • Melanoma is increasing faster in females than in males in the same age group, which might be due to high-risk tanning behaviors • One American dies of melanoma every 61 minutes

• About 75 percent of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma • The five year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99 percent. • Five year survival rates for regional and distal stage melanomas are 65 percent and 15 percent respectively • In 2004, the total direct cost associated with the treatment for melanoma skin cancer was $1.5 billion.

Many people with melanoma and their caregivers face practical, emotional, and psychological demands in addition to the physical effects of the disease and treatment. (Brandberg, 1995). The challenges of melanoma include the fear of a diagnosis of anyone faced with a life-threatening disease, the pain and discomfort associated with that treatment, and body image changes associated with disfiguring surgery. While most studies have found that patients adjust well to melanoma in the long term, deeply

indented scars, such as occur with skin grafting following removal of skin, subcutaneous and deep fascia, as well as those whose scars are larger than they anticipated, may be particularly distressed. (Cassileth, 1983). It goes without saying that melanoma patients have a lot to cope with, as do all patients with a life-threatening diagnosis. The diagnosis and treatment of a cancer, such as melanoma, threatens and disrupts life and research has found that different ways of coping with these threats and disruptions are associated with differences in one’s psychological adjustment and emotional well being over time.(Heim, 1991). It appears that some ways of coping are generally better than others, in the sense that they are more...
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