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Cancer Information

Melanoma - Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis Confirmatory diagnosis of malignant melanoma can be made only after biopsy of the suspicious area of the skin and subsequent histological examination of the biopsy specimen.

Treatment -

Stage 0 Usually a minor surgery is performed to remove the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue.

Stage I Surgical removal of the tumor along with the removal of surrounding tissue (about 2 cm) .To cover the wound, the patient may have skin grafting.

Stage II or Stage III In these stages surgical removal of the tumor is performed along with wide excision (around 3 cm) of surrounding tissue. Skin grafting may be done to cover the wound. Nearby lymph nodes might be removed.

Stage IV - People with Stage IV melanoma receive palliative care. Aim of palliative therapy is to improve the quality of life and prolong the duration of survival for the patient. The patient may have one of the following:

  • Surgery to remove lymph nodes that contain cancer cells or to remove tumors that have spread to other areas of the body.

  • Combination chemotherapy composed of drugs like tamoxifen, cisplatin, and dacarbazine.

  • Immunotherapy using agents like interleuken-2 (IL-2) and interferon alpha-2b.

  • Radiation therapy to treat metastasis

Recent developments in treatment of Melanoma

  • In 2003, scientists (Rosenberg et al) reported that by inhibiting a molecule known as cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4), using an antibody that blocks the activity of this key immunoregulatory molecule caused tumor shrinkage in patients with metastatic melanoma when administered along with a cancer vaccine.

  • High-dose interferon alfa-2b (Intron-A) significantly prolongs the time before melanoma recurs compared to low-dose interferon or no therapy, according to the findings of a large, randomized clinical trial of this biologic drug.