Melanoma Introduction (cont.)

Treatment choices by stage

The following are brief descriptions of the treatments most often used for each stage. (Other treatments may sometimes be appropriate.)

Stage 0

People with Stage 0 melanoma may have minor surgery to remove the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue.

Stage I

People with Stage I melanoma may have surgery to remove the tumor. The surgeon may also remove as much as 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) of tissue around the tumor. To cover the wound, the patient may have skin grafting.

Stage II or stage III

People with Stage II or Stage III melanoma may have surgery to remove the tumor. The surgeon may also remove as much as 3 centimeters (1 1/4 inches) of nearby tissue. Skin grafting may be done to cover the wound. Sometimes the surgeon removes nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IV

People with Stage IV melanoma often receive palliative care. The goal of palliative care is to help the patient feel better -- physically and emotionally. This type of treatment is intended to control pain and other symptoms and to relieve the side effects of therapy (such as nausea), rather than to extend life.

The patient may have one of the following:

  • Surgery to remove lymph nodes that contain cancer cells or to remove tumors that have spread to other areas of the body


  • Radiation therapy, biological therapy, or chemotherapy to relieve symptoms

Recurrent melanoma

Treatment for recurrent melanoma depends on where the cancer came back, which treatments the patient has already received, and other factors. As with Stage IV melanoma, treatment usually cannot cure melanoma that recurs. Palliative care is often an important part of the treatment plan. Many patients have palliative care to ease their symptoms while they are getting anticancer treatments to slow the progress of the disease. Some receive only palliative care to improve their quality of life by easing pain, nausea, and other symptoms.

The patient may have one of the following:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor


  • Radiation therapy, biological therapy, or chemotherapy to relieve symptoms


  • Heated chemotherapy drugs injected directly into the tumor


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