Melanoma or skin cancer has a higher probability of being cured if the patient gets treatment in the early stages of cancer, specifically when it is just affecting the topmost layer of the skin. However, for later stages, skin cancer melanoma treatment is more aggressive and less effective.
Treatment based on different stages of melanoma
Stage 0 melanoma treatment
Skin cancer at stage zero is often treated by surgery through wide excision. The melanoma at this stage is not yet affecting deeper than the epidermis (top skin layer). Usually, the melanoma is removed along with a small portion of the unaffected skin around it. The taken skin sample is then checked in the lab through a microscope. If skin cancer cells are spotted at the edges of the skin, another excision or surgery may be done in the area with melanoma.
Stage 1 and Stage 2 melanoma treatment
A stage one or stage two melanoma is also treated by surgery using the wide procedure excision to take off the skin with melanoma and a certain part of the normal skin that surrounds the affected area. In this case, the amount of normal skin that is removed is dependent on the melanoma’s location and its thickness.
A sentinel lymph node biopsy may be required by the doctor if there are signs that the melanoma is at stage 1B— the stage where cancer may have reached the body’s lymph nodes. Once cancer cells are found in this biopsy, the recommended skin cancer melanoma treatment is lymph node dissection where the affected lymph nodes are removed. However, this treatment does not guarantee that a patient’s survival rate increases. After the removal of the lymph nodes, some physicians may ask the patient to undergo adjuvant treatment. Sometimes, vaccines or drugs are also considered if the patient participates in a clinical trial to attempt to lower the probability of melanoma recurrence.
Stage 3 melanoma treatment
At this stage, cancer had already affected the lymph nodes when the melanoma was initially diagnosed. Surgical treatment is a must to remove the main tumor plus a lymph node dissection. With adjuvant therapy, some melanomas may be prevented from recurring. Using drugs or vaccines as a clinical trial participant may be part of the skin cancer treatment.
Another option for stage 3 melanoma is radiation therapy to the areas where the removal of lymph nodes was done. All melanomas found under the skin, also known as in-transit tumors, and near the lymph vessels should be surgically removed as much as possible. Other treatment options specific for this stage are vaccines like T-VEC vaccine, interferon, BCG or interleukin-2.
Stage 4 melanoma treatment
Stage four melanoma is very difficult to cure because cancer has already spread to the patient’s lymph nodes and other body areas. Enlarged lymph nodes and tumors are surgically removed or undergo radiation therapy.
Metastases found in internal organs are at times removed depending on how they can likely become cancerous and how many are present. If the metastases that are causing symptoms cannot be surgically removed, the other treatment options are radiation therapy, chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Since stage four melanoma is hard to cure, a patient might consider joining a clinical trial to try out the latest targeted drugs and therapies or a combination of these treatments.
Melanoma treatments today and in the future
Skin cancer melanoma treatment has significantly improved for the past few years. In fact, there are now newer types of targeted drugs and immunotherapy that are proven to be very effective. However, the best way to beat melanoma is still early diagnosis and early treatment of cancer. Given the success of several clinical trials, expect a more effective approach for the treatment of melanomas at different stages.…