Melanoma can be a more disheartening diagnosis of skin cancer, since it tends to be more aggressive than basal or small cell skin cancer. Early and aggressive treatment can help people beat the disease.
Surgical removal of the cancerous lesion is the first step in treating the disease. Generally, when melanoma is discovered, the exact diagnosis is unknown at the time. Your doctor may find a suspicious lesion and attempt to remove the entire area. The goal with removal is to achieve clear margins, which means there is no sign of abnormal cells around or below the tissue removed. Whether the tissue removed has clear margins is determined by the pathologist. They will also determine if the abnormal tissue is cancerous and what type. If the lesion is determined to be cancerous, staging can be difficult at that point. When the lesion does not have clear margins, another surgical procedure will be needed to remove a larger amount of tissue. If clear margins cannot be found, it is likely the lesion is more advanced and has progressed deep within the skin. Your doctors will decide which tests, such as a lymph node biopsy, will be needed to determine if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or beyond.
Immunotherapy is a commonly-used treatment option for people with at least Stage II melanoma. There are several types of medications used for immunotherapy, and the type of medication will depend on your specific type of cancer. For example, some medications are better for melanomas with certain genetic mutations. The overall goal of immunotherapy is to manipulate the immune system so it can kill cancer cells. This form of treatment is ideal for trying to kill cancer cells that are within the lymph nodes or may have spread elsewhere throughout the body. If immunotherapy is not successful, your doctors might also recommend clinical trials to minimize the chance of melanoma progressing to the latter stages.
Unfortunately, when melanoma reaches the late stages, the possibility of a cure is unlikely. People with late-stage melanoma may be prescribed a combination of treatments in the hopes of reducing symptoms associated with the disease and prolonging their life. Surgery may be an option for both skin lesions and internal tumors that cause uncomfortable or painful symptoms. This option for surgery might depend on the organ being affected by metastasis, since some tumors cannot be successfully removed. Immunotherapy and chemotherapy may also be options since they can be helpful in reducing symptoms. People with late-stage melanoma should also consider clinical trials, especially those specifically studying late-stage disease.
When caught early, melanoma may be successfully treated with surgery alone. As the disease progresses, advances in immunotherapy can give people with melanoma a chance at beating the disease. Contact a cancer center like Asheboro Dermatology & Skin Surgery Center for more information.