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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Surgical Excision of Melanoma

Surgery to remove (excise) camera.gif a melanoma removes the entire melanoma along with a border (margin) of normal-appearing skin. The width of the border of normal skin removed depends on the depth of the melanoma camera.gif. More tissue, usually skin and fat, is also removed from under the melanoma.

  • Small excisions may be closed with stitches and heal without problems.
  • Large excisions or those located on the hands, face, or feet may require a skin graft to close the wound after surgery.

The type of anesthetic used for your surgery depends on the size and location of the melanoma. Surgery on small, easily reached melanomas may require only a local anesthetic, while surgery for larger melanomas may require general anesthesia.

What To Expect After Surgery

Recovery after surgery to remove a melanoma depends upon the site and extent of surgery. The wound may take longer to heal if reconstructive surgery techniques such as skin grafts are used.

Why It Is Done

Surgery is the most common treatment for melanoma. Sometimes lymph nodes may be removed at the same time to check them for cancer. Surgery also may be done to remove lymph nodes that have cancer or to remove tumors that may have spread to other parts of the body.

How Well It Works

Surgery to remove the melanoma usually cures melanoma if it is found early. Surgery may cure melanoma if the cancer is only in the nearby lymph nodes.

Surgery may be used to treat metastatic melanoma. This only cures the cancer in a few cases. But surgery may provide the most effective and longest-lasting relief of symptoms.

Risks

Risks of surgery to remove melanoma include:

  • Infection.
  • Scarring.
  • Bleeding.
  • Rejection of skin graft.

What To Think About

Your doctor may need to do a biopsy (sentinel lymph node biopsy) of the lymph nodes near the melanoma to see if the cancer has spread (metastasized). The biopsy will be done before or during surgery to remove the melanoma.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Last RevisedOctober 12, 2012

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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