Melanoma removal is a procedure to remove cancer from the skin.
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Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done to treat melanoma. For some, it may be a cure for melanoma.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Nerve damage
- Incomplete removal of all cancerous cells
- Recurrence or spread of cancer
Smoking may raise the risk of problems.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The doctor may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
- Tests that need to be done before the surgery
The doctor may give:
- Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
- General anesthesia, if the area is large—you will be asleep
Description of the Procedure
Surgical removal of the cancer cells is the primary treatment for melanoma. Types of surgery include:
- Simple excision—The tumor is cut out. A small amount of normal skin at the edges is also removed. The wound is stitched back together. This type of surgery may leave a scar.
- Wide excision—The tumor is cut out along with a larger area of normal skin. This will help make sure there are no cancer cells left behind.
- Amputation—If the cancer is on a finger or toe, it may need to be cut away from the hand or foot.
- Lymph node dissection—Nearby lymph nodes may be removed if there is concern that the cancer has spread. The nodes will be checked for cancer cells.
The area may be closed with stitches. A larger area may need to be covered with a skin graft from another area of your body.
How Long Will It Take?
This depends on the extent of the melanoma and the type of surgery. Simple excision can take less than 1 hour.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some pain around the wound during recovery. Medicine can help.
Average Care Center Stay
Many people will be able to return home the same day. Those with more extensive surgeries may stay longer.
The doctor will check progress and remove any stitches or staples.
For more advanced melanoma, other treatments may be needed. These may include:
- Radiation therapy
Melanoma raises the risk for developing more. The doctor will likely advise:
- Sun protection, such as using sun block and wearing protective clothing
- Regular skin exams
- Skin self exams to look for any new or changing moles
Problems to Look Out For
Call your doctor if you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, or increased pain from the wound sites
- Increased bleeding and other leakage from the wound
- Pain that you cannot control with medicine
- Skin changes, such as:
- A new lump or color change in your skin
- A change such as bleeding, itching, growth, or color change in a mole
- New or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
- Melanoma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/melanoma/talk-derm.
- Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/melanoma.
- Melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer.html.
- Swetter SM, Tsao H, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of primary cutaneous melanoma. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019;80(1):208-250.
- Thomsen T, Villebro N, et al. Interventions for preoperative smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;2014(3):CD002294.
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