Melanoma Cancer Treatment

Experts in the treatment of complex skin cancer.

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Melanoma expert discusses treatment options with patient

There are five treatment choices for melanoma. Which may work best for you will depend on a number of factors. These include the cancer type, the tumor size and where it is, and the stage of the cancer. Factors also include your age, overall health, and what side effects you’ll find acceptable.

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your oncologist, or cancer specialist, is the best person to answer your questions. They can tell you what your treatment choices are, how well they’re expected to work, and what the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment. Or you may be offered more than one, and asked to decide which one you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It's important to take the time you need to make the best decision.

Melanoma is a less common, but more complex, skin cancer. Learn more about other skin cancer treatments.

Treatment options for melanoma

There are five different types of standard treatment for melanoma. As with many cancers, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are among them. In addition, biologic therapy and targeted therapy can be used to treat melanoma.

Surgery is the most common treatment for all stages of melanoma. The melanoma is removed in a wide local excision, the cancer and the skin and tissue around it are cut out.

  • It’s important to know if the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes. Doctors may perform various tests such as lymph node mapping or sentinel lymph node biopsy. If the tests show cancer in the lymph nodes, they are also removed by surgery, called a lymphadenectomy.
  • After the cancer in the skin is removed, some people need reconstructive surgery to cover the wound caused by surgery. For wounds that are shallow, doctors may use a skin graft, taking skin from another place on the body. Deeper wounds may require a more extensive procedure known as a skin flap.

Chemotherapy may be given after surgery to lower the risk cancer will return; chemotherapy after surgery is called adjuvant therapy.

Radiation used in treating melanoma is the external type and can either be curative or given to relieve symptoms.

Targeted therapy: Different than traditional chemotherapy; this treatment can help stop cancer from growing and spreading by targeting specific genes or proteins. 

Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to treat cancer (also called biologic therapy). 

Talk to your doctor about these and other options for treating melanoma. There may also be a clinical trial (research study) for which you are eligible. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care. 

Experts in treating melanoma

Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. Our team features some of the region’s most recognized specialists who work together to diagnose and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home.

Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care.

Working together for you

Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you.

A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.

Legacy Health collaborates with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to advance cancer care in our region. By working together, you benefit from the strength of both leaders in cancer care. As an integrated community cancer program for adults, we make sure that you have access to the latest treatments, technology and research available.

What happens next

Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these side effects in the best ways possible. Comfort care can treat symptoms to help improve your quality of life; this is also called palliative care.

To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. These tests can also determine if cancer has returned. Whenever possible, we work to stop the growth of cancer and reduce the chance of cancer coming back. 

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.

Nurse navigators
Legacy Cancer Healing Center 
Support groups and classes
Cancer rehabilitation 
Survivorship services