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Melanoma Center

Melanoma Treatment

Melanoma treatment
Once melanoma has been diagnosed and staged, doctors can recommend one or more treatment options. In the early stages of the disease, most people with thin, localized melanomas are cured by appropriate surgery. More treatments are available for more advanced disease. However, treatment options depend largely on the thickness of the primary tumor and the stage of the disease. It is important to consider the options carefully. If there is anything you do not understand, you have the right to ask to have it explained.

Chemotherapy
A number of drugs are being used to treat melanoma, either one at a time or in combinations. Unfortunately, to date, the response of melanomas to chemotherapy has been limited. Currently, Dacarbazine (DTIC), given by injection, is the only chemotherapy approved by the FDA. DTIC may be combined with carmustin (BCNU) and tamoxifen, or with cisplatin and vinblastine. Another drug, temozolomide, can be given orally.

  • Carmustin (BCNU)
  • Cisplatin
  • Dacarbazine (DTIC)
  • Tamoxifen
  • Temozolomide
  • Vinblastine

Clinical trials
Many people diagnosed with melanoma, especially those with advanced disease, can participate in clinical trials to have access to new treatments while they are still experimental and not generally available. People diagnosed with Stage 3 and 4 melanoma might consider enrolling in a clinical trial, a new or experimental treatment. There are risks involved in enrolling in a clinical trial, but there can be benefits, as well.

Gene therapy
Gene therapy alters selected genes to correct genetic defects or enhance the cancer-fighting potential of cells. There is hope that making changes in genes will lead to successes in treating melanoma and a wide range of other diseases. However, this treatment is in the very early stages of research, and its effectiveness has yet to be proven.

Immunotherapy
immunotherapy is based on drugs that act on the body's immune system. Several types of experimental melanoma vaccines attempt to stimulate the immune system so that it reacts more strongly against melanoma cells, destroying the cancer or slowing the progression. These vaccines are not a part of routine treatment at this time.

Surgical procedures
The first step in treatment is the removal of the melanoma, usually by surgical excision (cutting it out). Most surgical excisions are performed in a doctor's office or as an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia. Resulting scars are usually small and improve over time.

Removing skin melanomas - During this procedure, the borders of both tumor and healthy skin are removed by cutting them out.

Removing lymph nodes - Some doctors believe in removing all the lymph nodes in the region of a melanoma tumor to reduce the chance of spread of hidden cancer cells. However, there is no evidence that non-palpable lymph node removal should be performed as a preventive measure.

Prevention
Some simple precautions that you can take to prevent melanoma:

  • Avoid being outdoors too long between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Avoid sources of UV light such as tanning beds and sun lamps.
  • Go for a skin cancer check up once every three years if you are 20 to 40 years old and annually if you are over 40.
  • Teach children about the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure and get them into the habit of using sunscreen and protective clothing for outdoor activities.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF factor of 15 even on a hazy or cloudy day.
  • Wear protective clothing when outdoors (shirt and hat).
  • Wear sunglasses with UV absorption of 99 to 100.

Self-exam
Early detection still remains the best weapon in fighting skin cancer. In fact, skin cancers like melanoma can be cured if detected early. Doctors suggest that people perform monthly self-examinations in front of a full-length mirror. All areas of the body must be checked, including palms and soles, back of the torso and back of the legs. Be advised that one out of three melanomas in men are located on the back.

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