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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Surgery for melanoma

surgical oncology

Surgery for melanoma

Surgery is the primary treatment for localized melanoma and may be a treatment option for melanoma that has metastasized. For some localized melanomas, surgery may be the only treatment that is necessary. Melanoma may require more extensive surgeries, however, if nearby lymph nodes are enlarged and the doctor suspects cancer cells may have spread. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our experienced, highly skilled surgeons and surgical oncology teams regularly perform procedures to remove melanoma tumors.

Melanoma surgeries


The surgeon performs an excision with a scalpel, cutting the growth off the skin. The patient may receive local anesthesia to numb the affected area.

A wide excision is typically used on melanomas. In a wide excision, the skin tumor and a wider perimeter of healthy tissue is removed. A wide excision may also extend more deeply into the skin than a simple excision.

Reconstructive surgery

Skin cancer surgeries may result in scarring or disfigurement, especially in cases when a wide excision or other extensive surgery is necessary to remove a skin cancer, or when the surgery is performed on the face, head, neck or hands. Consult your doctor about your reconstructive surgery options.

Learn more about reconstructive microsurgery

Lymph node biopsy and removal

A lymph node biopsy is frequently performed on melanoma patients. In this procedure, your doctor will remove one or more lymph nodes, known as sentinel lymph nodes, which directly receive the lymph fluid draining from the tumor. If no sign of cancer is found in the lymph node or nodes, no additional lymph node surgery is necessary. If melanoma cells are found in one or more sentinel lymph nodes, the remaining lymph nodes in the region may be removed.

Learn more about sentinel lymph node biopsies for melanoma

Surgery for metastatic melanoma

Melanoma, which accounts for about 2 percent of all skin cancers, may travel to the brain, bones, liver and lungs. When that occurs, surgery may be performed to remove tumors from those locations. Surgery to treat metastatic melanoma may be combined with other treatments, such as immunotherapy or chemotherapy. In some cases, surgery for metastatic melanoma may be recommended to relieve symptoms of the disease.

Side effects of melanoma surgery

Melanoma surgery may produce challenging side effects, including:

  • Pain
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Nerve damage or numbness
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Fatigue
  • Lymphedema

Your CTCA® care team is available to help you manage these side effects by offering various supportive care therapies, including pain management, physical therapy and mind-body medicine.

Learn more about supportive care services for melanoma