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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Melanoma: Treatment & Monitoring
      Category : Health Centers > Cancers and Tumors


Alternate Names : Skin Cancer (Melanoma)

Melanoma | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the disease?

Complete removal of the melanoma is the first step. The size and depth of the melanoma will indicate the next step. Extra tissue around the tumor is also taken to make sure no cancer is left. If a very large area of skin is removed, a skin graft may be done. Skin is taken from another part of the body to replace the removed skin. Lymph nodes near the tumor will also be removed if it is suspected that the cancer has spread.

Surgery is not effective in curing melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body. Other methods of treatment, such as chemotherapy, biological response modifiers, or radiation therapy might be used in these cases. When these other methods are used after surgery has been done to remove all primary cancerous tissue, the treatment is called adjuvant therapy. Cancer cells that may remain in the body are the targets of adjuvant therapy.

Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells. One or more anticancer drugs are given by mouth or by injection into the bloodstream. Medicines used might include dacarbazine, nitrosourea, and cisplatin. These medicines work systemically, or throughout the body.

When the melanoma is located in an extremity, regional perfusion of chemotherapy might be used. The medicine is injected directly into the area that contains the melanoma using a perfusion pump for 1 hour. This technique helps to prevent systemic side effects.

Biological response modifiers, or BRMs, use the body's immune system to fight cancer or decrease side effects caused by other cancer treatments. Interferon and interleukin-2 may be recommended after surgery for those with metastatic melanoma or a high risk of recurrent disease. Some BRMs such as bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine and levamisole show promise.

Radiation therapy is used to help relieve symptoms caused by melanoma. It can be used to help control disease that has spread to the brain, bones, and other body parts.

Melanoma that has returned cannot be cured. Therapy is designed to reduce the size of the tumor.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Surgery for melanoma may involve taking a large amount of skin, which will leave a scar. Interferon and other BRMs can cause fatigue and severe flu symptoms. Radiation can cause fatigue and hair loss in the treated area. Chemotherapy side effects are specific to the medicines given. It is helpful to know that side effects eventually go away after treatment stops. Also, the healthcare provider can provide measures to treat or control side effects.

What happens after treatment for the disease?

People who have had melanoma are closely followed to make sure the melanoma does not return. The person should also be monitored to make sure no new melanomas occur. If the person has widespread disease, careful follow-up will be necessary to make sure that treatment is effective.

How is the disease monitored?

The frequency and type of monitoring will depend on the severity of the disease. A person with advanced melanoma will need more frequent monitoring to assure the best possible supportive care. Frequent skin self-exams will be encouraged. For those with a high risk of recurrence, tests ordered might include X-rays, blood tests, and scans of the chest, bones, brain, and liver. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

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Melanoma: Prevention & Expectations


Author: Miriam P. Rogers, EdD, RN, AOCN, CNS
Reviewer: Barbara Mallari, RN, BSN, PHN
Date Reviewed: 08/23/01

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