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Treatment of melanoma

Treatment for melanoma is given by cancer specialists (oncologists). Some specialize in surgery, some in radiation therapy and others in chemotherapy (drugs). These doctors work with the person with cancer to decide on a treatment plan.

Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with cancer. Treatment decisions for melanoma are based on:

  • stage
  • thickness
  • location

Treatment options for melanoma

  • surgery
    • Surgery is the main treatment for melanoma and usually cures early stage melanoma.
    • A number of surgical methods are used to treat melanoma:
      • Wide excision is the most common method used to remove melanoma.
      • Amputation may be necessary to treat melanoma on a finger or toe.
      • Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) may be used to see if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes and to more accurately stage the melanoma, predict prognosis, improve local regional control and perhaps improve overall survival.
      • Lymph node dissection may be used to remove lymph nodes with melanoma metastases in them.
      • Surgery may be used to remove a metastasis in the brain, lung, liver, bowel, subcutaneous tissues or pancreas.
      • Skin reconstruction may be necessary for some melanomas.
  • biological therapy
    • Biological therapy may be used as an adjuvant therapyadjuvant therapyTreatment given in addition to the first-line therapy (the first or standard treatment) to help reduce the risk of a disease (such as cancer) coming back (recurring). for some high-risk melanomas.
    • It is also used to treat advanced melanoma.
  • radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be used to treat advanced melanoma.
    • It is also used after surgery to treat lymph nodes that contain cancer cells.
  • chemotherapy
    • Chemotherapy may be used to treat advanced melanoma or a local recurrence.
  • targeted therapy
    • Targeted therapy may also be used to treat metastatic or recurrent melanoma.
  • follow-up after treatment is finished
    • It is important to have regular follow-up visits.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials investigate new and better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. There are some clinical trials in Canada that are open to people with melanoma. For more information, go to clinical trials.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about treatment.


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