I have advanced melanoma: what now?

Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer; Copy Editor: Clare Morrison; Chief Editor: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, October 2013. About Melanoma is sponsored by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated.

In most cases, surgery to cut out your melanoma is successful and is all that is necessary. However, melanoma can spread to other tissues, resulting in Stage III/IV or advanced melanoma.

If your melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes (Stage III) or other organs of your body (Stage IV), treatment is now much more difficult. A team of specialists – the multidisciplinary team (MDT) – will discuss your case to plan investigations and the most suitable treatment.

Who forms the multidisciplinary team?

Multidisciplinary team members may include:

What tests will I need?

What tests are recommended will depend on your symptoms and what the doctors find when they examine you.

More surgery may be recommended

If melanoma is found in the lymph nodes, the lymph nodes will be surgically removed. The procedure is called a lymph node dissection or lymphadenectomy. You will usually need to be put to sleep (under general anaesthetic) for this operation.

If you have a single melanoma metastasis in an internal organ, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it.

Non-surgical options for advanced melanoma

When melanoma has spread more widely to other organs in the body, surgery is usually not an option and medical and radiation treatments are used to treat the cancer.

Managing the advanced stages of melanoma is a difficult process. It is important that you are actively involved and understand your diagnosis and what treatment options are available. Your care team will be able to answer any questions or concerns and help plan your melanoma treatment.


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