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Melanoma: The Negative Impact

By: Morag Currin
Posted: August 1, 2011, from the August 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells through the use of a large radiation therapy machine that directs radiation at the body. The patient usually has treatment at a hospital or clinic five days a week for several weeks. Radiation therapy may be used to help control melanoma that has spread to the brain, bones and other parts of the body. It may shrink the tumor and relieve symptoms.

Skin side effects of radiation. The side effects of radiation therapy depend on the amount administered and the area being treated. Side effects that may occur in the treated area include erythema, and possible sensitivity and dryness. Skin care professionals need to avoid working on skin that has undergone radiation during treatment and only start once the skin has healed completely.

Biological therapy. Biological therapy is a form of treatment that uses the body’s immune system, either directly or indirectly, to fight cancer or to reduce side effects caused by some cancer treatments. Biological therapy for melanoma uses substances called cytokines. The body normally produces cytokines in small amounts in response to infections and other diseases. In some cases, biological therapy administered after surgery can help prevent melanoma from recurring. For patients with metastatic melanoma or a high risk of recurrence, interferon alpha and interleukin-2 may be recommended after surgery.

Skin side effects of biological therapy. The side effects of biological therapy vary with the type of treatment. These treatments may cause flulike symptoms, such as chills, fever, muscle aches, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Patients may also experience a skin rash. These problems can be severe, but they go away after treatment stops. Skin care professionals need to get permission from the client’s physician to work with clients while they are undergoing treatment.

Handling melanoma in the skin care facility

As a skin care professional, what can you do to provide safe treatments to this client aggregate? First of all, make sure to complete comprehensive medical intake forms. If your client is immune-suppressed due to an organ transplant, or has undergone a bone or stem cell transplant and chemotherapy, there is a good chance that she is at risk for squamous cell carcinoma. There is evidence that immunosuppression can lead to squamous cell skin cancer. This increased risk applies to clients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) as well as transplant recipients on chronic immunosuppressive medications. The risk of developing primary melanoma in the setting of immunosuppression is less well-established, but there is some evidence that clients who have a history of melanoma are more likely to develop disease recurrence in the setting of immunosuppression.

Screening and referring