What are Melanomas?

The treatment of melanoma may involve surgery, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or a combination of several treatment techniques. Each of these treatments is outlined below.

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The initial treatment of melanoma involves the surgical removal of the tumor in almost all cases. Local excision is made with a wide circumference around the affected area, removing all abnormal tissue and some surrounding normal tissue. Some patients may require a skin graft to cover the wound and promote skin healing if the area of removed tissue is extensive.

The involvement of lymph nodes in the area is important and a biopsy is routinely conducted to monitor for the presence of abnormal cells at the same time as the surgery. A dye or radioactive substance is injected close to the tumor to demonstrate the movement through the lymph ducts and identify the duct most likely to be involved in taking the biopsy. If there is evidence of cancer cells in the lymph nodes, they will need to be removed via lymphadenectomy and monitored for abnormal cell growth signs.

Adjuvant therapy with chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be needed to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

Biologic or Immunotherapy

Biologic therapy, also known as immunotherapy, enhances the patient’s natural immune system's effect to destroy abnormal cancerous cells. There are various types of this treatment for melanoma, including:

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs that direct their action to the quickly dividing cancer cells and cause less damage to normal cells than other treatment methods, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. There are several types of targeted therapy for melanoma, including:


Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat melanoma as adjuvant therapy following surgical removal of the tumor. The cytotoxic medications stop the growth of cancer cells by inducing apoptosis or inhibiting their division.

Chemotherapy can be administered systemically via the mouth or intravenous injection to affect all cells throughout the body. It can also be administered regionally into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ or body cavity for a more localized effect.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays and other radiation types to destroy or inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

External radiation therapy uses a machine external to the body to direct the radiation towards the tumor and cancer cells' location. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance placed in or near the cancer by way of a needle, seed, wire or catheter. External radiation therapy is used to treat melanoma, as the tumors primarily affect the skin on the outside of the body.


Further Reading

Written by

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of South Australia and has experience working in both Australia and Italy. She is passionate about how medicine, diet and lifestyle affect our health and enjoys helping people understand this. In her spare time she loves to explore the world and learn about new cultures and languages.

Last updated Feb 9, 2021


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