Malignant Melanoma Specialist

Douglas Swinehart, MD

Dermatologist located in Fresno, CA

Dr. Swinehart encourages everyone with existing or new moles to regularly check their appearance. If any changes occur, or any moles look unusual compared to the others, it would be wise to schedule an appointment at his practice in Fresno, California. Malignant melanoma may develop from moles, but many of them start in sun-damaged skin with no preexisting mole. It’s the deadliest form of skin cancer, but it can be cured when treated early, so don’t hesitate to contact the practice with any questions.

Malignant Melanoma Q & A

What is malignant melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer because it can spread to other parts of the body, where it’s hard to treat and often becomes fatal. It develops in melanocytes, which are cells throughout your skin that produce the pigment that gives skin, hair, and eyes their color. Healthy melanocytes turn cancerous when they’re damaged. These damaged cells can mutate and rapidly grow into tumors.

Melanomas are primarily caused by intense, occasional exposure to ultraviolet light, like the type that causes sunburn. This is different from other types of skin cancer, which are caused by the cumulative effect of long-term sun exposure.

What are the symptoms and risk factors of malignant melanoma?

Like other skin cancers, melanoma can be cured if it’s caught and treated early. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to the moles on your body. Contact Dr. Swinehart if your moles have any of these characteristics:

  • Uneven border
  • Variety of colors (shades of brown, tan, or black)
  • Larger than a pencil eraser
  • Change in appearance – any change in size, shape, color, elevation
  • Bleeding or itching develop
  • Simply unusual in appearance compared to your other moles or freckles

Genetics have an influence in melanoma; a family history of melanoma is identified in about 1 in 10 people who develop this cancer. People who have already had another type of skin cancer are also at a higher risk for melanoma. If you have already had a melanoma, and it was successfully treated in the past, you need to keep getting skin examinations since it can recur or new melanomas can develop.

How does Dr. Swinehart treat malignant melanoma? 

There are many different presentations of melanoma, each with slightly different features, so please don’t hesitate to see Dr. Swinehart if you notice any worrisome moles. Better yet, come in for regular skin examinations so that the doctor can identify melanoma as early as possible. After verifying that you have melanoma, the doctor will talk with you about the severity of the cancer and recommend treatment.

Surgery to remove the cancer is almost always required.  Most melanoma surgery is performed in the office using local anesthesia, so you’ll be back home the same day. More advanced melanomas will be referred out to a general surgeon that we work closely with.  As part of the adjunctive care for melanoma, Dr. Swinehart will often refer you to a trusted oncologist for ongoing observation, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or other treatment.


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Insurances Accepted

Dr. Swinehart accepts most major insurance plans. Please contact our office directly with any questions regarding coverage prior to your office visit or if you do not see your insurance provider listed. Please bring your insurance card with you to your appointment.

Anthem Blue Cross
Banker's Life
Blue Shield of California
Capital Health Plan
Delta Health Systems
HealthComp, Inc.