Early-stage melanoma can usually be treated with surgery alone.
The treatment for melanoma depends on three factors:
- the age of the person
- the general health of the person
- the stage of the disease
Surgery is the first treatment for all stages of melanoma (IA through IV). The tumor is removed entirely, along with some surrounding tissue (usually about ¾ of an inch all around). The surgery may be done by a dermatologist or a surgeon, and it sometimes happens as part of the diagnosis process. In some cases, a skin graft may be needed to replace skin that has been removed.
If the melanoma has spread to the nearby lymph nodes, the affected lymph nodes may also be removed surgically.
Surgery is usually the only treatment needed for people with early-stage melanomas (thinner melanomas that have not spread to the lymph nodes). However, these people still need regular follow-up visits to the doctor, to make sure the melanoma has not come back and that other moles do not need biopsies.
Once a person has had melanoma, there is a higher chance of getting it again.
For later-stage melanomas (thick melanomas or those that have spread to the nearby lymph nodes), other treatments besides surgery may be needed. These are called "adjuvant" treatments, and they may take the form of:
- Radiation therapy
Melanoma that has spread to distant sites in the body, or to other organs (such as the lungs or liver) is known as Stage IV. For these patients, treatment options may be available, including clinical trials. Please discuss your options with your health care professional.