Surgery for melanoma
Surgery is the primary treatment for localized melanoma. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), our experienced, highly skilled surgeons and surgical oncology teams regularly perform procedures to remove melanoma tumors.
For thin, localized melanomas, surgery is often curative and the only treatment that is necessary. However, if your surgeon or surgical oncology team believes additional melanoma cancer procedures are necessary, they have a variety of options to choose from.
A relatively minor procedure called a simple excision is usually performed under local anesthesia to remove thin melanomas. During this type of cancer surgery, your doctor will remove the melanoma along with a small amount of surrounding normal skin (known as the margin). The amount of normal skin removed depends on the thickness of the tumor.
Re-excision or wide excision
If the diagnosis of melanoma was made using a biopsy sample, or if cancerous cells are found in the margin of the original simple excision, your doctor may perform a melanoma cancer surgical procedure known as a wide excision to remove additional tissue.
Surgery for metastatic melanoma
While cancer surgery alone cannot cure melanoma that has spread to distant organs, your surgeon may remove the primary tumor or the known metastases in order to alleviate symptoms, and improve patient quality of life.
Lymph node dissection
Since nearby lymph nodes are usually the first place melanoma spreads, your doctor will usually remove one or more lymph nodes to look for cancerous cells. If nearby lymph nodes are abnormally hardened or enlarged, or imaging results show possible cancer cells, your doctor may remove all of the lymph nodes close to the original melanoma.
If there is no overt sign of cancerous cells in the nearby lymph nodes, your doctor will usually remove one lymph node, in a process known as sentinel lymph node biopsy. If the sentinel node shows no sign of cancer, no additional surgery is necessary. However, if melanoma cells are found in the sentinel node, the remaining lymph nodes in the region are usually removed.
Learn more about melanoma cancer treatment
What is surgery?
Surgery is used to diagnose, stage and treat cancer, and certain cancer-related symptoms. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), our experienced surgeons have performed thousands of procedures and will discuss the surgical options that are best suited to your individual needs.
Whether a patient is a candidate for surgery depends on factors such as the type, size, location, grade and stage of the tumor, as well as general health factors such as age, physical fitness and other medical comorbidities. For many patients, surgery will be combined with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. These may be administered before surgery (neoadjuvant) or after surgery (adjuvant) to help prevent cancer growth, spread or recurrence.
Early in the treatment planning process, we plan for and proactively manage any side effects from surgery. Our nutritionists, rehabilitation therapists and naturopathic clinicians work together with your surgical oncologist to support your healing and quality of life. Our reconstructive surgeons perform procedures to restore the body's appearance and function, often at the time of surgery or following surgery.