After you receive a diagnosis of melanoma, your doctor will discuss a treatment plan for you based on a number of factors, including the stage of your disease, the type, the location, your age, and general health. Treatments are available for all people with melanoma. Early stage melanoma can often be treated effectively with surgery alone, while more advanced melanomas may require surgery as well as additional treatments such as immunotherapy or targeted therapy. There are also a variety of new treatments and new combinations being investigated in clinical trials, which are research studies to evaluate new therapies and improve cancer care. There are several ways to treat melanoma depending on its location and extent.
Treating Early-Stage Melanomas
Treatment for early-stage melanomas usually includes surgery to remove the melanoma. A very thin melanoma may be removed entirely during the biopsy and require no further treatment. Otherwise, your surgeon will remove the cancer as well as a border of normal skin and a layer of tissue beneath the skin. For people with early-stage melanomas, this may be the only treatment needed.
Treating Melanomas That Have Spread Beyond The Skin
If melanoma has spread beyond the skin, treatment options may include:
Surgery to remove affected lymph nodes. If melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes, your surgeon may remove the affected nodes. Additional treatments before or after surgery also may be recommended. Read More About Surgery Here
Radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be recommended after surgery to remove the lymph nodes. It’s sometimes used to help relieve symptoms of melanoma that has spread to another area of the body.
Biological therapy. Biological therapy boosts your immune system to help your body fight cancer. These treatments are made of substances produced by the body or similar substances produced in a laboratory. Side effects of these treatments are similar to those of the flu, including chills, fatigue, fever, headache and muscle aches.
- Biological therapies used to treat melanoma include interferon and interleukin-2, ipilimumab (Yervoy), nivolumab (Opdivo), and pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses medications designed to target specific vulnerabilities in cancer cells. Side effects of targeted therapies vary, but tend to include skin problems, fever, chills and dehydration.
- Vemurafenib (Zelboraf), dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist) are targeted therapy drugs used to treat advanced melanoma. These drugs are only effective if your cancer cells have a certain genetic mutation. Cells from your melanoma can be tested to see whether these medications may help you.