3 Approaches To Treating Melanoma
Melanoma is one of the more aggressive forms of skin cancer and often requires a combination of treatment approaches to remove the cancer and possibly achieve remission. The treatments that are most appropriate for you will depend on your stage of cancer and prognosis.
Generally, all stages of melanoma may be treated with some form of surgery. In most instances, you will need to have the skin lesion removed in hopes of eliminating the cancer and for diagnostic purposes. The lesion is removed with a large border and sent to pathology for further testing. Your doctor's goal is to remove the lesion with clear margins, which means the perimeter of the excised skin and the bottom of the lesion have no identifiable cancer cells. If the margins are not clear, your doctor may remove a larger segment of skin or deeper layers of tissue. For some people with melanoma, the excision may reveal the cancer is more advanced than originally thought, which might require additional surgeries, such as removal of nearby lymph nodes to gauge how far the cancer has spread.
Immunotherapy is often used alone or in combination with other treatments to stop melanoma. The goal of immunotherapy is to help your immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells. Medications used for immunotherapy are given as an infusion. Depending on the specific medication, the infusion might be scheduled every two to four weeks. Each type of immunotherapy medication activates a certain type of immune cell. Since these medications are encouraging immune cells to destroy cancer, there is a risk the cells will begin attacking healthy cells throughout the body. Due to the risks, immunotherapy is generally reserved for advanced melanomas or ones that were successfully treated in the early stages, but return.
In some instances, melanoma may be found to contain genetic mutations or abnormal proteins. Targeted therapy is used to hone-in on the specific genes or proteins causing melanoma and attempt to stop these abnormal cells from reproducing. The goal of targeted therapy is to cause the least amount of harm to healthy, normal-functioning cells as possible. In many cases, targeted therapy is the preferred approach to treating melanoma, especially advanced cases, because chemotherapy is generally less effective in melanoma and carries a higher risk of side effects. Many targeted therapies can be taken in pill form, which is generally better tolerated than treatments that require infusion.
There are several melanoma treatment options for different stages of melanoma. If you have been diagnosed with melanoma, the first step is attempting to remove the cancer in its entirety at an earlier stage.