There are several treatment options for melanoma, depending on the extent of the disease and the patient’s age and general health.
If you have been diagnosed, talk through all of your options with their doctors and develop a treatment plan that best fits their needs. You may also want to get a second opinion.
People with (early-stage) melanoma may have one or more of the following:
This is the usual treatment for melanoma. A surgeon removes the tumor and some normal tissue surrounding it to reduce the chance that cancer cells will remain in the area.
The amount of surrounding skin removed depends on the thickness of the melanoma and how invasive it is. If a large area of tissue is removed, the surgeon may do a skin graft. In this case, skin from another part of the body is used to replace the skin that was removed.
Lymph nodes near the tumor may also be removed because cancer can spread through the lymphatic system. Surgery is usually not effective in controlling melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body (known as metastatic melanoma). In these cases, doctors may use other methods of treatment.
Radiation uses high-energy rays directed at a specific part of the body to kill cancer cells. For example, it may be used to treat areas where lymph nodes have been removed to lower the risk that the cancer will return in that area.
Radiation therapy may also be used to help control melanoma that has spread to the brain, bones, and other parts of the body.
This form of treatment uses the body’s immune system, either directly or indirectly, to fight cancer or to reduce side effects caused by cancer treatments.
For some early stage melanoma patients, interferon therapy may be recommended after surgery. Interferon is a cytokine, a substance that our bodies produce in small amounts in response to infections and other diseases.
Using modern laboratory techniques, scientists can produce cytokines in large amounts.
Interferon has been shown to delay recurrences. Other types of immunotherapy are used for metastatic disease.
Clinical trials are testing new ways to use or combine drugs or techniques that are already approved or study novel therapies.
Sometimes clinical trials provide a better way of treating the disease. Ask your doctor if a clinical trial is right for you.
people with melanoma that has spread to distant lymph nodes
the initial melanoma) or other parts of the body, other
treatments are available.
These include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies
and other treatments to help patients feel better (called palliative
The chance of recurrence is greater for people with thick
or melanoma that spread to nearby tissue.
Follow-up care for
people with a high risk of reoccurrence may include
x-rays, blood tests,
and scans of the liver, chest, bones, and brain.
Talk with your doctor
about any new or worsening symptoms.