Treatment for Melanoma
SurgerySurgery is the main treatment option for melanoma removal. Each surgery is different and depends on individual factors, including the size, depth, and location of the cancer, as well as the overall health of the patient. Superficial melanomas - the thinnest and most shallow lesions - are removed by surgical excision, on an outpatient basis, using only local anesthetic. The success rate is very high, while the risk of recurrence is very low.
As melanoma invades the skin more deeply, the risk of the disease spreading to a lymph node increases. In those cases, at the time of surgical removal of the melanoma, our surgeons will also remove one or two lymph nodes. This is known as sentinel lymph node biopsy which looks for cancer that has spread beyond the original area to nearby lymph nodes.
The procedure involving both removal of the melanoma and sentinel lymph node biopsy is done in the OR, on an outpatient basis, using general anesthetic. If the lymph node biopsy comes back negative, usually you will not require further treatment. If it is positive, you will likely need more surgery to remove the remaining cancerous lymph nodes.
Care for Advanced MelanomaIf your cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or beyond to other internal organs, our medical oncologists will discuss the use of additional treatments including targeted therapy, bio immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and novel treatment protocols available through a clinical trial.
In addition, for melanoma that has spread but is still confined within the leg or arm, we now offer two new therapy options: hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion and hyperthermic isolated limb infusion.
In the perfusion procedure, the limb with the cancer is surgically placed on a bypass circuit, where a machine pumps blood and treatment drugs through the limb and isolates it away from the rest of the body. In the infusion procedure, catheters are placed through the skin into the main artery and vein of the diseased limb to isolate it from the rest of the body. Surgeons can then give high doses of chemotherapy to attack and target the cancer within the limb and avoid most of the drug traveling throughout the entire body - which means fewer side effects. The most common side effect is swelling in the limb.
Patients stay in the hospital for 4-5 days afterward with physical therapy support, and generally return to their normal activities within 2-3 weeks. Studies have shown that 60-80% of patients respond to these treatments, and many patients have no residual signs of cancer after.
Still have questions?The nurses at Cancer AnswerLine™ have answers. Call 1-800-865-1125 and you'll get a personal response from one of our registered nurses, who have years of experience in caring for people with cancer.