Melanoma Treatment

skin cross section

A cancer that forms in the skin cells that produce pigment or the color of the skin, melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer causing approximately 68,000 new cases each year.1 While it accounts for less than five percent of all types of skin cancers, melanoma causes a majority of deaths.1

The best way to protect against developing melanoma skin cancer is to protect the skin by staying out of midday sun, using sunscreens when out in the sun and to avoid using tanning beds.

Treatment Options for Melanoma

Like other cancers, there are several different treatment options for melanoma, which largely depend on the size and stage of the cancer. These treatments can include one or more of the following:

Surgery
Surgical removal of the tumor is typically the first-line treatment for melanoma. A surgeon will remove the tumor as well as some surrounding skin and lymph nodes to test to see if the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy
The use of chemotherapy is usually reserved for those melanomas that have spread beyond the skin to other areas of the body. Chemotherapy agents such as carmustine, cisplatin, dacarbazine, paclitazel, temozolomide and vinblastine can be combined into several different treatment regimens. Depending on the patient, chemotherapy may extend survival or relieve symptoms in advanced cases of melanoma.
Isolated Limb Perfusion
Another type of chemotherapy regimen, called an isolated limb perfusion, may be used in some melanomas that are located only in a leg or arm. During surgery, the blood flow of the arm or leg is temporarily cut off from the rest of the body, and chemotherapy is injected directly into the arteries of that particular limb. This allows for high doses of chemotherapy to be infused directly into the tumor, without exposing other parts of the body to the toxic chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy
A form of cancer treatment that utilizes the body’s natural immune system to fight cancer, immunotherapy is typically recommended following surgery. One of two agents -- interferon alpha and interleukin-2 – may be used. These drugs are very potent and can cause severe flu-like symptoms such as fever, aches, and chills, which some people with melanoma may not be able to tolerate.
Radiation Therapy
Given externally, radiation therapy usually is given to help treat melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body, including the brain and bones to help alleviate pain and other symptoms associated with metastatic cancer.

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