A new specialist team has joined the Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care to treat skin malignancies.
The launch coincides with National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Month. Melanoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer in both men and women, will be number one on their treatment list.
The team will include specialists in medical, surgical and radiation oncology, as well as thoracic and plastic surgery, pathology, radiology, dermatology, who will develop personal treatment plans for patients.
MECCC’s multidisciplinary melanoma team will conduct clinics for patients every Wednesday at Montefiore locations and continuously review and monitor individual treatment plans.
“Melanoma can be more aggressive than other forms of skin cancer because it is invasive and can spread to other parts of the body if not caught early. At a certain stage it can be life threatening,” said Dr. Steven Libutti, director of MECCC. “It’s critical for patients with melanoma, particularly those with advanced disease, to have access to a range of specialists who can work together to develop individualized treatment plans.”
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma is the number one cause of cancer in people between the ages of 20 and 25. It is also the fastest growing cancer in men and the second fastest growing in women in the United States.
This team hopes to gain the attention of young adults to see dermatologists because if melanoma is detected in its earliest stages, it has a 95 percent cure rate.
A dermatologist can identify and remove any suspicious growths on skin, which is determined to be cancerous or not by a pathologist. When melanoma is caught early enough, it can be successfully treated by surgery alone, but can change dramatically if it goes undetected.
“Individuals diagnosed with melanoma need to be followed closely and educated about their disease, regardless of its stage,” said Dr. Petra Rietschel, director of the Melanoma/Sarcoma Program at the MECCC. “As the cancer progresses, treatment options become extremely limited. Our program is among a select few in the country that provides access to investigational treatments that can increase the odds of these patients doing better over time.”
Among the treatment options for melanoma at the MECCC are traditional chemotherapy, as well as United States Food and Drug Administration approved immunotherapies that have been shown to improve survival for some patients.
A procedure called Isolated Limb Perfusion, an alternative to amputation, is also offered for patients with recurrent cases of melanoma. This method uses large doses of chemotherapy for the limb only, leaving the rest of the body unaffected.
Approximately half of newly diagnosed cases of melanoma are found in lower limbs and in up to 10 percent of those cases, recurrence takes place in the same limb where the primary diagnosis was made.
“We strongly recommend a yearly total body exam by a dermatologist,” said Karthik Krishnamurthy, chief dermatology consultant of MECCC. “If anything unusual is seen, the patient should be examined by a dermatologist as soon as possible.”