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Surgical removal. Skin cancer treatment normally starts with surgical removal of the tumour. The complexity of the operation depends on tumour size, type and location. Tumours can often be removed without an overnight hospital stay, whereas on other occasions more complex procedures under general anaesthesia may be required. Surgical removal should eradicate the tumour from the skin without leaving any remnants behind.
Radiotherapy. Uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells. The radiation is produced by an external source and is directed towards the tumour or lymph nodes.
Cryotherapy. Is a method that uses low temperatures to freeze and eliminate small and superficial tumours.
Topical agents. In some cases treatment may involve administering topical agents (imiquimod).
Photodynamic therapy. Is a technique used to treat some superficial skin tumours by selectively burning malignant cells.
Immunotherapy, targeted therapies and chemotherapy. To treat more advanced tumours with distant metastasis or immunotherapy in the case of some lymphomas. Immunotherapy uses new medicines that help activate the body’s own defences against the tumour, in a similar manner as vaccine therapies or immune checkpoint inhibitors. It is employed in patients with advanced tumours that cannot be treated surgically. Targeted therapies destroy tumours cells and block them at a genetic level. And chemotherapy may be particularly effective against certain types of tumour.
Some patients may need to undergo surgical treatment that requires a subsequent patient recovery period to allow the wounds to heal, reduce the pain or treat localised swelling.
Patients who receive immunotherapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy may require treatment for the side effects . They will also need to be monitored during the treatment and undergo different tests.
Stages of melanoma
Melanoma in situ or a skin anomaly.
Early stage, localised disease.
Regionally advanced melanoma. The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or lymph vessels, but it is operable.
Stage III (Inoperable)
Regionally advanced melanoma. The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or lymph vessels, and cannot be operated on.
Stage IV: Distant advanced melanoma. The cancer has spread to other areas of the body distant from the initial tumour, e.g., the lungs, liver, brain or bones.
Inoperable stage III and stage IV melanomas are classified as ADVANCED MELANOMA.
Treatment depends on the stage
Stage 0 melanoma requires surgical treatment. Surgery on melanomas in stages I, II and III is normally complemented with adjuvant therapy which can include chemotherapy, radiotherapy or biological therapy. Stage IV melanoma requires chemotherapy.
Josep Malvehy GuileraDermatologistDermatology Department
Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018
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