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Melanoma Treatment

Effective Treatment Options for Melanoma Patients

University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center physicians recommend treatment for melanoma patients based on the extent of the disease, the patient’s age and general health, and other factors.

Physicians typically suggest surgery when treating the condition in an early stage. If the disease has spread to other parts of the body, UH doctors may use one or more of the following treatments:

Surgical Management of Melanoma

Our surgeons typically use excision as the standard surgical approach for most melanomas. For this procedure, a surgical oncologist removes the tumor and some surrounding normal tissue. This surgery reduces the probability that cancer cells will be left in the area. The width and depth of surrounding skin that the surgeon removes depends on the thickness of the melanoma and how deeply it has invaded the skin.

If a large area of tissue is removed, the surgical oncologist may perform a skin graft.

If the pathologist finds cancer cells in the lymph nodes, this may indicate that the disease has spread to other parts of the body. The two procedures physicians typically use to remove the lymph nodes include:

  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy: This procedure is done after the biopsy of the melanoma and in conjunction with the wider excision of the tumor.
  • Lymph node dissection: The surgeon removes all the lymph nodes if the sentinel lymph nodes are cancerous.

Following surgery, patients may be given adjuvant therapy to kill cancer cells that remain in the body. Adjuvant therapy options for melanoma treatment may include radiation, biological therapy or a clinic trial.

In general, surgery is not an effective method for controlling melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body. For these cases, UH Seidman Cancer Center doctors may use other types of treatment such as chemotherapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these methods. Our physicians offer high-dose interlekin-2 for eligible patients with metastatic melanoma. We also provide access to leading-edge clinical trials for melanoma patients.


Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill skin cancer cells. When a drug is put directly on the skin, the treatment is topical chemotherapy. It is most often used when the skin cancer is too large for surgery. It is also used when the doctor keeps finding new cancers.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. The rays come from a large machine outside the body. They affect cells only in the treated area. This treatment is given at a hospital or clinic in one dose or many doses over several weeks.

Biological Therapy

Biological therapies use cellular hormones called cytokines or vaccines to boost the immune system and help the body fight cancer. The most commonly used biological therapy is alpha interferon. This drug appears to transform the proteins on the surface of cancer cells and also shows their growth. Research suggests that alpha interferon increases a patient’s chance of survival. Patients considering alpha interferon therapy or any other biological therapy should meet with their UH Seidman Cancer Center physician to discuss the possible benefits of the treatment.