Today there are more treatment options than ever for melanoma and other skin cancers. If melanoma or suspicious tissue is detected during screening and examination, the Melanoma and Skin Care Program at UI Health will recommend treatments and therapies based on the stage of the growth/tumor, and individual medical history.
Surgery usually is the first treatment for melanoma or skin cancer. If melanoma is detected early, surgical removal of the tumor - known as resection or excision - is likely to be successful. Surgical treatments include the following:
Simple Excision: Highly abnormal precancerous moles or other skin lesions may require only simple excision. They are surgically removed along with their margins.
Wide Local Excision: After the lesion has been diagnosed as a melanoma, a wider excision is required. An excision of .05-2cm is made around the tumor, depending on its thickness, and the cancerous tissue and margins are sent to pathology. Further surgery, such as sentinel lymph node biopsy, or other treatment options may be required.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
Sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed in patients with melanomas greater than 1mm thick or with smaller tumors that show characteristics of ulceration or active growth. During surgery, a radioactive solution or colored dye (or both) is injected near the tumor as a way to find the sentinel lymph nodes.
The nodes bearing the dye are removed and sent for biopsy. If cancer is present, more lymph nodes may be removed.
Mohs surgery is used in areas such as the face where every millimeter of skin is at a premium and must be preserved. During this procedure, a small layer of tissue is removed and then examined; this process is then repeated until the tissue is free of cancer. Mohs micrographic surgery conserves the most tissue possible by precisely removing cells layer by layer, and it has the highest rate of success in treating basal and squamous cell carcinomas.