Treatment of melanoma depends on many factors. Your doctor will base on the sage of the tumor, your age and health in general. Your recovery chances are higher when melanoma is diagnosed early. In general, melanoma treatment includes surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Surgical treatment is the essential treatment for an early stage melanoma. In fact, if the tumor is detected and removed early enough, no further treatment is necessary after the surgery. It is estimated that 80% of melanomas detected early are completely cured by surgery.
If the melanoma has spread into surrounding lymph nodes, your surgeon will perform a lymph node dissection to remove not only the tumor but also all the lymph nodes in the region near the tumor. In cases of metastatic melanoma, especially in the brain, your surgeon will perform surgery to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of your life. In this case, the surgery is considered as palliative treatment.
Chemotherapy is an important tool in the treatment of advanced or metastatic melanoma. It consists of using strong chemical agents to destroy the cancer cells by preventing them reproducing. Your doctor will consider the stage of the melanoma and your health to recommend you a protocol capable of eradicating the tumor. In general, elderly receive lower doses of chemotherapy. In addition, these chemotherapeutic agents can be administered alone or in combination. When many drugs are used, the treatment becomes more aggressive and can cause many side effects.
To increase your survival chance, chemotherapy can be used in combination with radiation therapy.
Radiotherapy (Radiation Therapy)
Radiotherapy is a loco-regional cancer treatment, consisting of exposing the tumor to ionizing radiation to shrink or eliminate it. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation therapy attacks cancer cells in a specific area. Radiation is often performed to treat advanced or metastatic melanoma to relieve symptoms or to shrink the tumor to make operable. As for the chemotherapy, radiation therapy can cause short or long term effects. Effects vary depending on the part of your body that has been irradiated.
Immunotherapy (Biological Therapy)
Also called biological therapy, immunotherapy is the use of substances (drugs) capable to strengthen the immune system to help your body fight the cancer. These drugs work by activating immune cells so they attack cancer cells and destroy them. Interferon and interleukin-2 are the two most used drugs in the treatment of melanoma; some of their adverse effects include:
- Muscle ache.