The multidisciplinary team at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center delivers some of the most advanced treatments to patients with melanoma. Medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, plastic surgeons, radiologists, dermatologists, and pathologists all work together to develop an individualized melanoma treatment plan to meet your specific needs.
Based on the stage of your cancer and other factors, your treatment options might include:
Surgery is the main treatment for melanoma and usually it can cure the cancer in its early stages. For more advanced melanoma, surgery may be combined with other therapies.
Most wounds take one to three weeks to heal. If you have a skin graft, healing may take longer. Some soreness around the wound is normal, and taking over-the-counter pain medicine can help.
Common side effects of melanoma surgery: Infection, fluid buildup under the scar or at the sight where the lymph node was removed, problems with wound healing, numbness or tingling, pain, blood clots and scarring
Immunotherapy uses drugs to stimulate your immune system and fight melanoma. It boosts your body’s natural defenses using materials made in your body or a lab to improve, target or restore immune system function. Immunotherapy has become the initial treatment once melanoma has spread to other sights in the body (lymph nodes or distant locations). Although immunotherapy can be effective in treating melanoma, there are possible side effects.
Common side effects of immunotherapy: Skin reactions, flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, hormonal imbalances including thyroid and adrenal gland and weight changes
Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific mutations or pathways in the cancer, blocking its growth and spread, while limiting damage to healthy cells. Types of targeted therapies for melanoma may include: B-RAF inhibitors, KIT inhibitors, MEK inhibitors and others. Targeted therapy usually has less severe side effects than other treatments but only patients with specific mutations in their tumor can receive targeted therapy.
Common side effects of targeted therapy: Rash, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and sensitivity to sunlight
Chemotherapy for melanoma is rarely used for metastatic melanoma. It may be considered when both immunotherapy and targeted therapy are not effective. Chemotherapy drugs attack cancer cells through the bloodstream. It’s most used in advanced melanoma and sometimes in conjunction with other treatments. Chemotherapy does have side effects, and these usually go away after treatment is finished.
Common side effects of chemotherapy: Fatigue, infection, nausea, vomiting, nail changes, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nerve damage and hair loss
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. Melanoma treatment uses external-beam radiation therapy, which is given from outside the body and blocks non-cancer areas, decreasing side effects. Radiation for melanoma is usually considered for hard to treat areas or recurrent disease. Sometimes radiation therapy is used in combination with other treatments to reduce cancer size or prevent it from coming back. Radiation therapy side effects are generally mild, can be treated with over-the-counter medicines and go away after treatment is finished but can have lasting effects to the skin and treated tissues.
Common side effects of radiation therapy: Skin irritation, redness, pain and fatigue
Depending on your type of cancer, stage and other health factors, you may qualify to participate in a clinical trial. These carefully controlled and highly regulated research studies need volunteer patients in order to progress promising new treatment techniques.
Clinical trials at Banner MD Anderson are conducted in accordance with the National Cancer Institute. Talk to your doctor about clinical trials currently available, eligibility and other guidelines.
Cancer and its treatments cause physical symptoms, as well as affect you emotionally. Our Integrative Oncology Program offers supportive services focused on improving how you feel during treatment and caring for the non-medical needs of you and your family. This often includes therapies such as massage, acupuncture and support groups.
Choosing the best treatment options for you is one of the most important decisions in your cancer journey, and we are here to help you through this process. We customize a treatment plan for every patient to make sure you receive the right care for your specific needs. We are here for you every step of the way.