The Melanoma Unit of IOB Institute of Oncology attends to patients diagnosed with melanoma or any other type of skin cancer.
Although most patients that come into the Melanoma Unit have been previously diagnosed at another medical center, IOB, in cooperation with the dermatology department of Quirón hospital, also makes the initial diagnoses of individuals who suspect they may have a melanoma.
It also offers a service of second opinions for those treated at other centers.
Patients treated in the Melanoma Unit are attended to by a multidisciplinary team made up of oncologists, dermatologists, anatomical pathologists, general and plastic surgeons, specialists in radiology and nuclear medicine and nursing staff specialized in cancer.
This multidisciplinary team makes it easier for patients to be able to undergo all the tests and receive all the treatments that they need in a coordinated manner in the same location and in the shortest amount of time, without the need to travel to different centers and separately manage visits to different specialists.
Any discoloration or lesion that appears on the skin is reason enough for a consultation with a dermatologist, and special attention should be paid to them if they show any of what are called the ABCDE signs: Asymmetry (A), Borders that are irregular (B), dark or abnormal Color (C), a Diameter of more than five millimeters (D) and Evolving with new size, shape, color, etc. (E).
Even though many of these marks may not be a melanoma, any of these signs must be considered an alarm and may allow an early diagnosis that will facilitate a successful treatment.
It is also advisable to have an urgent dermatological consultation in cases where the spot on the skin itches, bleeds or grows very quickly.
Melanoma and other skin tumors can affect anybody regardless of their skin type. However, people with fair skin and who are sensitive to the sun should take precautions, as well as those who have a lot of freckles or marks on their skin, since they are at greater risk of developing cancerous skin lesions.
The diagnosis begins with a visual examination of any suspicious lesion on the skin made by a dermatologist.
If the visual examination confirms that it could be skin cancer, the dermatologist will advise a biopsy (which involves removing a sample of cells to be analyzed).
A specialist in anatomical pathologists will analyze the extracted cells in the laboratory to find out whether the skin lesion is cancerous or not. If it is not, then the dermatologist will recommend to the patient what measures to take from that point on.
In those cases in which the diagnosis is a melanoma, the patient will be treated by a surgeon and assessed by an oncological specialist in the management of this disease.
In some cases, the oncologist may think it best to request additional diagnostic imaging tests to check whether the cancer has spread to other organs, as well as a complete blood test to specify how far the disease has progressed.
The quick diagnostic circuit established by IOB allows us to have the definitive diagnosis within a period of 48 to 72 hours counting from the moment the patient comes in for the consultation about a suspected melanoma.
Most skin cancers are removed using surgery and are cured in a very high percentage of cases without the need for chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.
For melanoma, the treatment usually begins with the surgery to remove the tumor lesion. Depending on the thickness of the lesion, the nearest lymph nodes will be analyzed to check whether they contain tumor cells using sentinel node techniques.
Depending on the results from the lymph node analysis, as well as the imaging tests and the blood tests that report on the spread of the disease, the oncologist will decide what is the most appropriate treatment for the patient.
This treatment may include radiotherapy or a pharmacological treatment that sometimes may last for one full year in those cases where the disease is localized in the skin and nearby lymph nodes.
IOB is a pioneer in the introduction of genetic analysis to identify patients that may benefit from a new drug that specifically targets the tumors with an alteration in the BRAF V600 gene.
Today, this mutation is essential in the selection of the patient’s treatment, given that those patients who do not present this alteration benefit mainly from immunotherapy treatments.
For those cases that are positive for the mutation, the patients take profit from both immunotherapy treatments as well as targeted anti-BRAF + anti-MEK treatment.
Cases in which the patient’s disease is in an advanced state, usually present one of two scenarios:
Once the treatment has been completed, the follow-up tests will vary from one patient to another depending on the extension of the melanoma at the moment of the diagnosis.
In general, the evolution of the patient’s status is monitored with a visit every three months for the first three years. Once this period has passed, the follow-up visits are reduced to twice a year.