A member of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Network

Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment

Surgery is commonly used for treating melanoma. Patients with more extensive melanoma will usually have additional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Your doctor will talk with you about the options, pros and cons for each treatments, including clinical trials, and any other treatments that might be appropriate for your condition.

At Kaiser Permanente medical offices, we keep up with the rapid changes and improvements in skin cancer treatment. We offer surgery that’s most effective in treating your cancer, chemotherapy that’s easier to tolerate, and radiation that’s targeted to the cancer growth. We consistently review the latest research findings to make sure our treatments are the most effective.

Types of Treatment

Surgery: In early stage melanoma, surgery removes the growth and some of the surrounding normal tissue. A dermatologist generally does this procedure during an office visit, using local anesthetic to numb the skin at the site of the tumor.

Deeper and more advanced cancers may need more extensive surgery and possibly sampling and removal of nearby lymph nodes. Patients might be referred to general surgery for this type of additional treatment.

Radiation or chemotherapy treatments: For melanoma in later stages, chemotherapy or radiation treatment might follow surgery. Chemotherapy or radiation sessions can happen as often as a couple of times a week or just once every few weeks. There might also be a few weeks of rest between treatments.

Immunotherapy, biologic, and targeted therapies: For advanced melanoma, immunotherapy or biologic drugs might be an option. In some cases, specific targeted therapies identified through special tests may be available as well.  These options can be discussed with your oncologist.  

Reactions to Treatment 

Side or after effects from surgery depend on the size and location of the tumor and on the extent of the operation. They can include fatigue, bruising, and pain. If lymph nodes were removed, swelling might develop in the arm or leg (lymphedema). Your care team can recommend treatment, including exercise and compression.

Side effects from radiation, chemotherapy, or other types of drug therapy depend on the dose and type of drug. Common side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, pain, problems thinking clearly, skin sensitivity, and hair loss.

Your doctor, nurse, nutritionist, and oncology pharmacist can let you know how to manage side effects.

Contacting Your Care Team at Group Health

As you discuss your treatment and possible side effects with your care team, also talk about what signs and symptoms require medical attention right away. When you experience those symptoms, you should call your care team for help or advice. After clinic hours, you should call our Consulting Nurse Service for help, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Taking Care of Yourself

It might seem like your life is revolving around cancer treatment during this time. But it’s important to take care of your other physical needs and your emotional needs as well.