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How do you treat melanomas?

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Quick Answer

Most melanomas are treated by surgical removal, states WebMD. A wide excision, which involves the removal of the tumor as well as some healthy skin surrounding it, is the most common treatment.

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Full Answer

Wide excisions are used because they help ensure the surgeon removes the entire tumor. The edges of healthy skin may be tested for cancer cells. If they are found, doctors may order another excision. This is the standard treatment for stage I and II melanoma, says the American Cancer Society.

Stage III and IV melanomas may require additional treatment. Stage III is when the melanoma has spread internally to the lymph nodes. This is still treated with wide excision, but it may also involve lymph node dissection and other internal surgeries. Some cases may also be treated with radiation therapy, cancer cell inhibitors or immunotherapy, which stimulates the patient's immune system to attack the tumors more efficiently, explains the American Cancer Society.

Stage IV is usually treated with immunotherapy, radiation therapy and other full-body interventions in addition to surgical excision. If nothing else works, doctors may recommend chemotherapy, but it is usually a last choice. Chemotherapy tends not to be effective against melanoma for more than a few months because the tumors grow quickly, notes the American Cancer Society.

New treatments are being developed. Doctors are researching targeted drugs that attack the tumors, as well as new types of immunotherapy and combinations of different therapies, states WebMD.

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