What is malignant melanoma?
This is a type of cancer, usually of the skin but occasionally arising from the eye. It tends to arise from pigmented "birthmarks" but can appear anywhere on the skin surface.
Why is malignant melanoma especially important in pregnancy?
Firstly, it is relatively common in pregnancy, affecting up to one in every four hundred pregnant women; secondly, it is probably the one malignancy that is definitely known to be adversely affected by pregnancy, being more aggressive at this time; and thirdly, it is one of the very rare forms of cancer which could metastasize (extend to) the placenta and/or the fetus.
On a positive note, regression of the cancer can occur following the end of the pregnancy.
Any changes to such lesions, however innocuous they may seem, require immediate medical attention. Such changes may be an increase in size, a change in shape or colour, or development of irritation/itchiness.
There is no time to waste because malignant melanoma can be incredibly aggressive.
What will be the treatment if malignant melanoma is diagnosed in pregnancy?
As in the non-pregnant state, surgery is the mainstay. There is usually no need to terminate the pregnancy. If the disease is discovered at a late stage and surgery is unable to remove the disease entirely, chemotherapy is supplemented. This is not very effective. Radiotherapy is hardly ever useful.