She said she's "fighting for her life."

By Leah Groth
November 22, 2019

Slick Woods, best known for being Rihanna's go-to model for Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty campaigns, revealed she is undergoing chemotherapy for stage 3 melanoma cancer.

On Tuesday, the 23-year-old model shared an photo on Instagram with the news. “How I feel about chemotherapy, shout out to everyone that gotta go through it,” the mother-of-one wrote, trying to make light out of the situation with a silly photograph. She also used the hashtag "#atleastimalreadybald."

Woods didn't go into any more detail on Instagram about her diagnosis, but she did elaborate a bit more in an interview with entertainment website, The Shade Room. It was there, she revealed she is battling stage 3 melanoma cancer, and that it is spreading. She also told them that she is currently “fighting for her life.”

Woods, however, did take to Instagram multiple times after revealing her chemotherapy to tell her followers that she doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for her. "Stop treating me like a victim," she wrote. 

What is stage 3 melanoma cancer?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that originates in the pigment-producing cells of the epidermis called melanocytes, when they begin to grow out of control, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). While melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancers, it's considered the most dangerous—mostly due to the fact that it is much more likely to spread to other areas of the body than basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma.

Stage 3 melanoma is an advanced stage of the potentially and often deadly skin cancer. According to the ACS, stage 3 melanoma cancers have already spread from their original place on the skin to the lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis.

RELATED: Here’s What you Need to Know About the 3 Types of Skin Cancer

How common is stage 3 melanoma?

Melanoma in general is very uncommon, accounting for only one percent of skin cancer cases. About 96,000 new cases of melanoma are expected to be diagnosed this year. However, the mortality rate is considerably high.

Compared to Stage 1, when the melanoma is confined to the skin, Stage 3 specifically, is even more uncommon, David J. Leffell, MD, Chief of Dermatologic Surgery & Cutaneous Oncology at Yale Medicine Department of Dermatology, explains to Health. 

It should also be said that having darkly pigmented skin lowers your risk of melanoma at more common sites on the body, like the trunk in men or the legs in women, but anyone can get melanoma on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under the nails, per the ACS. Melanomas in those areas make up a much larger portion of melanomas in African Americans than in whites.

What are the symptoms of melanoma?

The most obvious symptoms of melanoma come in the form of oddly shaped moles. Any markings that are asymmetrical, have uneven, squiggly edges, look discolored, change in size, shape, or color, or are over ¼ inch in diameter could be melanoma, and should be checked out by a dermatologist ASAP.

Most physicians also recommend doing monthly self-checks on your own skin—and again, if you notice anything unusual, see a doctor right away.

RELATED: This 24-Year-Old Thought the Tiny Spot Under Her Eye Was a Pimple. It Turned Out to Be Skin Cancer

So what's the prognosis of stage 3 melanoma—and how is it treated?

According to Dr. Leffell, the prognosis of stage 3 melanoma is much better than in the past—but it's still not great. As of 2018, Stage 3 has a survival rate close to 70% at 5 years. As comparison, Stage 1 melanoma has a greater than 96% cure rate.

And as far as treatment option go, they can vary based on the stage of the cancer and other factors, identified on the biopsy. For more advanced stages, such as Slick’s, treatment options may include excision plus immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy or radiation.

“Treatment has been revolutionized by a new class of drugs that help the immune system fight the cancer cells, called checkpoint inhibitors,” adds Dr. Leffell. According to the ACS, however, some people with stage 3 melanoma might not be cured with current treatments, which is why they may want to ask their doctor about taking part in a clinical trial of newer treatments.

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