Stage 1 melanoma is treated by a surgery that removes the cancerous cells and also a margin of surrounding healthy cells, according to the American Cancer Society. This is called wide excision. The margin of healthy skin is no more than four-fifths of an inch.
If the melanoma has advanced to stage 1B, some surgeons perform a sentinel lymph node biopsy, claims the ACS. This test lets the doctor know if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. During the procedure, he injects the area around the melanoma with a radioactive dye. After waiting about an hour, the doctor checks to see if there's any radioactivity near the lymph nodes that are near the melanoma. The doctor finds the nodes that have picked up the radioactivity and has them investigated under a microscope.
If there are no signs of melanoma in the lymph nodes, no more lymph node surgery is needed, claims the ACS. But if there are signs of cancer, more lymph nodes are removed and investigated. If the cancer has spread, some surgeons start the patient on interferon therapy. Interferon is a synthetic version of a protein that supports the immune system, says WebMD. It is considered an adjuvant therapy, which prevents more tumor cells from growing, says the ACS.