Your options for treating your melanoma 1 depend on several factors, like your health, cancer stage, and the type, size, and location of your growths or tumors. Your healthcare provider may recommend one of these treatments 2 alone or together as a combined therapy.
Surgery is the primary method of treating earlier stages of melanoma 3. The procedure involves your healthcare provider removing your cancerous tumors and some skin around the area. Your healthcare provider can do this all at once (excisional surgery) or in stages (Mohs surgery). Surgery does not guarantee that your melanoma won’t return or spread to different organs. However, it does significantly increase your chances of survival. Once your melanoma spreads, your healthcare provider will consider other forms of treatment.
Chemotherapy is standard cancer therapy 4 used alone or with other therapies to treat metastasized melanoma. As a treatment, chemotherapy uses drugs that block or slow down the growth of cancer cells 5. The drugs used for chemotherapy are strong and can also affect your healthy cells. As a result, chemotherapy can cause widespread effects, such as toxicity and involvement of multiple organs and systems (heart, brain, blood, lungs).
Radiotherapy is another option for treating metastasized melanoma. This therapy uses high doses of radiation to kill your cancer-causing cells. Healthcare providers often use radiation with chemotherapy to reduce your side effects, like skin changes, nausea, and effects on your healthy cells.
Immunotherapies 6 are another option for treating advanced-stage melanoma. These therapies regulate cancer-related inflammation, which contributes to the growth and spread of cancerous tumors by activating your immune responses to tumor cells 7. Immunotherapies can shrink the size of your tumors.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a light-based option for treating advanced stages of melanoma. PDT involves using wavelengths (light) to damage your cancerous cells and any tumorous blood vessels 8. Your healthcare provider may not recommend this therapy alone because it has limited effects as a monotherapy. You may experience better results using PDT with chemotherapy or immunotherapies.
Targeted therapies are alternate therapies used alone or with immunotherapies to treat advanced-stage melanoma 9. These therapies are drugs, like BRAF inhibitors, MEK inhibitors, and CKIT inhibitors, that support your immune system to suppress the development of cancerous tumors and prevent them from spreading.