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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Chemotherapy for melanoma


Chemotherapy for melanoma

Chemotherapy is a systemic cancer therapy designed to kill fast-growing cells, including cancer cells, throughout the body. Chemotherapy may be recommended for patients with metastatic melanoma that has spread to distant parts of the body. The most common chemotherapy drug used for melanoma is dacarbazine (DTIC-Dome®). Chemotherapy may be used in combination with other cancer treatments, including immunotherapy and surgery.

Regional chemotherapy: Isolated limb infusion

Melanoma tumors are often found on one of the extremities, such as a leg or an arm. In these situations, a doctor may recommend isolated limb infusion to administer chemotherapy directly to the affected limb, to treat the tumor and help prevent the chemotherapy from traveling elsewhere in the body. By concentrating the chemotherapy on the affected area, this technique may cause fewer side effects than systemic chemotherapy. In this procedure, a tourniquet is placed on the arm or leg, then high doses of chemotherapy are administered.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs designed to slow or stop the growth of rapidly dividing cancer cells in the body. The drugs may be used:

  • As a primary treatment to destroy cancer cells
  • Before another treatment to shrink a tumor
  • After another treatment to destroy any remaining cancer cells
  • To relieve symptoms of advanced cancer

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our medical oncologists are experienced in delivering targeted, individualized chemotherapy options while also proactively managing side effects.When chemotherapy drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cells throughout the body, it's known as systemic chemotherapy; when chemotherapy drugs are directed to a specific area of the body, it's called regional chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy delivery methods

Some chemotherapy delivery methods include:

  • Orally (by mouth as a pill or liquid)
  • Intravenously (by infusion into a vein)  
  • Topically (as a cream on the skin)
  • Injection
  • Direct placement (via a lumbar puncture or device placed under the scalp)

When chemotherapy drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cells throughout the body, it is called systemic chemotherapy. When chemotherapy drugs are directed to a specific area of the body, it is called regional chemotherapy.

Managing chemotherapy side effects

While chemotherapy targets cancer cells, it may also damage healthy cells and cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and mouth sores. Your care team will provide a variety of supportive care services to help you prevent or manage side effects throughout your chemotherapy treatment.

Learn how to manage nausea and vomiting
Get tips for coping with hair loss
Learn how to manage fatigue
Get tips for managing mouth sores
Learn how integrative care may help manage the side effects of cancer treatments

Experienced care team

For most of our patients, a medical oncologist serves as their primary doctor. Our medical oncologists and cancer experts, including gynecologic oncologists, have training in diagnosing cancer and delivering chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and/or hormone therapy. They will work closely with you and the rest of your care team to discuss chemotherapy options based on your individual needs.

Individualized treatment approach

When you arrive at the hospital, your medical oncologist or gynecologic oncologist will review your medical history and perform a full diagnostic evaluation, then present you with a treatment plan based on your specific diagnosis.

Chemotherapy is an important part of treatment for many of our patients. Our physicians use standard-of-care treatment protocols and practice evidence-based medicine. In some cases, we may use innovative delivery methods to treat certain types of cancer.

We strive to find the right chemotherapy drug, or combination of drugs, for each person. We may use certain tests to help us identify an appropriate drug combination for your disease and help you avoid unnecessary toxicity.

If chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, your medical oncologist will coordinate your dosage and schedule. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other treatment modalities like targeted therapies, surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Throughout your treatment, your medical oncologist will monitor the progress of your chemotherapy regimen and modify your treatment plan accordingly.