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Treatments for Melanoma

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
 
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While standard protocols have been established for the treatment of virtually all cancers, physicians will often modify them for their individual patients. These modifications are based on many factors including the patient’s age, general health, desired results, and the specific characteristics of his or her cancer. Since the treatments described in this report represent the standard therapeutic approaches, your physician may not strictly adhere to them.

The goal of treatment is to eliminate the cancer or, if this is not possible, to limit its further growth and control the symptoms. The treatment and management of melanoma may involve surgery, biological therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Surgery to remove the melanoma is the main treatment, and cures the large majority of patients with melanoma. If the melanoma has spread to lymph nodes, it can still be treated with surgery to remove the lymph nodes, but the chances of cure are lower. Once melanoma has spread to other parts of the body, however, it is difficult to treat and rarely cured. Chemotherapy is not as effective in treating advanced melanoma as it is in treating many other types of cancers. It may be used to help control symptoms if the melanoma has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body).

Radiation is usually not used to treat melanomas in the skin.. However, radiation therapy may help in controlling symptoms if the cancer has spread to the bone, brain, or other parts of the body.

There are no effective hormonal therapies used in the treatment of the disease.

Doctors continue to investigate additional treatments for melanoma. If you have melanoma that has spread to other parts of your body, you may want to discuss with your doctor the possibility of participating in a clinical trial.

Select a topic below for a thorough discussion of each melanoma cancer treatment option:
Surgery
Radiation therapy
Chemotherapy
Other: biologic therapy
Lifestyle changes
Managing the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment

Existing treatment protocols have been established and continue to be modified through clinical trials. These research studies are essential to determine whether or not new treatments are both safe and effective. Since highly effective treatments for many cancers remain unknown, numerous clinical trials are always underway around the world. You may wish to ask your doctor if you should consider participating in a clinical trial. You can find out about clinical trials at the government website ClinicalTrials.gov .

Sources:

National Cancer Institute

American Cancer Society

Bast, R., et al. Cancer Medicine e5 ., Hamilton, Ontario: B.C. Decker Inc.; 2000

Rakel, R. Conn's Current Therapy 2002 , 54th ed., St. Louis, MO: W. B. Saunders Company; 2002: 808-809.



Last reviewed February 2003 by Donald Lawrence, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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