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Melanoma - Treatment

Melanomas are highly curable if caught early and have not spread beyond the site where they developed.

Treatment decisions for melanoma are based on:

  • stage, thickness, and location of the tumour
  • individual's general health and personal situation

The following are the main treatment options for melanomas:

Surgery

This is the primary standard treatment for localized melanoma. Additional (adjuvant) therapy may be given after surgery for high risk melanomas to destroy any cancer cells that may have escaped from the primary site. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are both adjuvant therapies for melanoma.

Chemotherapy

This reaches cells all over the body (systemic therapy) and destroys cancer cells that may have travelled from the primary melanoma site. Chemotherapy is usually given in advanced melanoma.

Radiation Therapy

This destroys cancer cells that may still be in the area after a melanoma is removed. It may be used for select cases of melanoma.

Biological Therapy (immunotherapy)

This may be offered as adjuvant therapy for melanomas with higher risk of recurrence or regional lymph node metastasis. Nonspecific immunotherapy is used to stimulate the immune system as a whole. Specific immunotherapy targets the tumour selectively. The primary agent used in biological therapy is high dose interferon alpha.