Melanoma Treatment

Specific treatment for skin cancer will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent and type of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

There are several kinds of treatments for skin cancer, including the following:

  • surgery Surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer. It is used in most treated cases. Some types of skin cancer growths can be removed very easily and require only very minor surgery, while others may require a more extensive surgical procedure. Surgery may include the following procedures:
    • cryosurgery Using liquid nitrogen, cryosurgery uses an instrument that sprays the liquid onto the skin, freezing and destroying the tissue.
    • curettage and electrodesiccation This common type of surgery involves scraping away skin tissue with a curette (a sharp surgical instrument), followed by cauterizing the wound with an electrosurgical unit.
    • excision A scalpel (sharp surgical instrument) may be used to excise and remove the growth. The wound is usually stitched or held closed with skin clips.
    • Mohs' microscopically controlled surgery This type of surgery involves excising a lesion, layer by layer. Each piece of excised tissue is examined under a microscope. Tissue is progressively excised until no tumor cells are seen. The goal of this type of surgery is to remove all of the malignant cells and as little normal tissue as possible. It is often used with recurring tumors.
  • laser therapy Laser surgery uses a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells, and is often used with tumors located on the outer layer of skin.
  • radiation therapy X-rays are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Other types of treatment include the following:
    • chemotherapy - Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
    • topical chemotherapy - chemotherapy given as a cream or lotion placed on the skin to kill cancer cells.
    • systemic chemotherapy - chemotherapy administered orally or intravenously (IV).
    • immunotherapy - Immunotherapy of melanoma is a complex type of treatment involving various approaches to boost the body's own immune system, helping it to slow the growth of the cancer.

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