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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Treatment Overview

Melanoma may be cured if it's found and treated in its early stages when it affects only the skin. If melanoma has spread, it is much harder to treat.

How much and what type of treatment you need depends on the stage.

Recommended Related to Melanoma/Skin Cancer

Melanoma, Malignant

Important It is possible that the main title of the report Melanoma, Malignant is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.

Read the Melanoma, Malignant article > >

Treatment choices

Treatments for melanoma include:

  • Surgery. The entire melanoma is cut out, along with a border (margin) of normal-appearing skin.
  • Chemotherapy, which uses medicines to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy, which uses medicines to help your body's immune system fight the cancer.
  • Targeted therapy, which uses medicines that block cancer growth.

Metastatic and recurrent melanoma

Melanoma can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, where it can cause tumors. When melanoma has spread and appears as a tumor in another part of the body, it sometimes can be successfully treated with surgery. But metastatic melanoma usually needs other treatments, too, such as chemotherapy, interferon, immunotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Melanoma can come back after treatment. This called recurrent melanoma. All of the treatments mentioned above may be used for recurrent melanoma as well as:

  • Hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion. If the melanoma is on your arm or leg, chemotherapy medicine may be added to a warm solution and injected into the bloodstream of that arm or leg. The flow of blood to and from that limb is stopped for a short time so the medicine can go right to the tumor.
  • Medicines injected directly into the tumor.
  • Lasers to destroy the tumor.

If your melanoma can't be cured, your doctors will try to control symptoms, reduce complications, and keep you comfortable.

Your doctor may recommend that you join a clinical trial if one is available in your area. Clinical trials may offer the best treatment option for people who have metastatic cancer. Clinical trials study other treatments, such as combinations of chemotherapy, vaccines, and immunotherapies. They are also studying targeted therapy.

Regular follow-up appointments are important after you have been diagnosed with melanoma. Your doctor will set up a regular schedule of checkups that will happen less often as time goes on.

To learn more about specific treatments for melanoma, go to the National Cancer Institute's website at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/melanoma.

Your emotions

Finding out that you have cancer can change your life. You may feel like your world has turned upside down and you have lost all control. Talking with family, friends, or a counselor can really help. Ask your doctor about support groups. Or call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit its website at www.cancer.org.

Supportive care

Your quality of life may be improved by having palliative care to manage your symptoms.

For some people who have advanced-stage cancer, a time comes when treatment to cure cancer no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But this isn't the end of treatment. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.

It can be hard to decide when to stop treatment to prolong your life and shift the focus to end-of-life care.

To learn more about supportive care, see:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 12, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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