Multiple options for melanoma treatment are available and can be tailored to the specific size, location, and stage of your skin cancer. Many of the treatments for melanoma are similar to treatment for other skin cancers. However, more advanced treatment is more commonly recommended with melanomas because this is the most aggressive type of skin cancer. Even so, melanoma is rarely a terminal diagnosis. The five-year survival rate is 92 percent. The odds improve to 98 percent when detected early, but drop precipitously once the cancer enters stage 3. Five-year survival rates for stage 4 melanoma are as low as 15-20 percent.
If you expect a skin growth is melanoma or if you’re waiting on biopsy results, here are some of the treatment options you may discuss with a dermatologist at our Mt. Vernon clinic.
Melanoma Removal and Biopsy
For smaller, shallower melanomas, biopsy and removal of the cancerous growth may be the only treatment necessary. For more serious and advanced melanomas, it may be necessary to remove nearby lymph nodes following the results of a sentinel node biopsy. If there are other troublesome signs, the lymph nodes may be removed even if the biopsy results are negative. Melanomas can sometimes spread even if no cancer is found in the lymph node.
If there’s any reason to think the cancer has spread beyond localized skin tumors, follow-up treatment will likely be recommended to completely kill any remaining cancer cells. Some types of melanoma treatment may be able to cure the cancer if effective, while other treatment options are designed to slow or stop the spread of cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment stimulates the immune system in some way to more effectively recognize and destroy cancer cells, including melanomas. Among the different types of immunotherapy are Immune checkpoint inhibitors, PD-1 inhibitors, CTLA-4 inhibitor, Interleukin-2 (IL-2), Oncolytic virus therapy, and other less common forms of the therapy.
- Targeted Therapy: This treatment used medications that disrupt the function of abnormal skin cancer cells. The growth of the melanoma slows or even stops without harming healthy skin cells. Because targeted therapy is harmless to healthy tissue, the medications may circulate throughout the body via the bloodstream.
- Chemotherapy: Also known as “chemo,” this treatment uses drugs to kill cancerous cells that weren’t removed by the biopsy. Often, chemotherapy is recommended to fight advanced, treatment-resistant melanomas as targeted and immunotherapy treatments have become more popular as first-line treatments.
- Radiation Therapy: This treatment uses X-rays and gamma rays that bombard and kill cancer cells. The radiation affects both normal and cancerous skin cells, but normal cells are usually able to repair themselves. Often, the goal of radiation therapy isn’t intended as a cure for melanoma but rather to shrink the growth and provide comfort and time for patients with melanoma that can’t be removed surgically.
Schedule an Appointment
Whether you still need to receive a melanoma diagnosis, or your cancer has already been detected and you need to schedule an appointment for treatment, don’t wait to get the medical care that could save your life. While melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, it is treatable. With early melanoma detection, treatment outcomes are often effective. Please Contact Us for a skin cancer screening by one of our medical dermatologists.