For patients with late stage melanoma, surgery may only be part of a treatment plan. Dr. Alvarado, can you tell us about surgery for late stage melanoma?
Sure, Dr. Mayzik. Not all stage III and IV melanomas can be removed by surgery. Often other treatments are necessary.
When stage III melanoma can be removed by surgery, the procedure typically involves removing the tumor, as well as a wide margin of normal tissue around it. Nearby lymph nodes are often removed too. A skin graft may be done to cover the wound caused by the procedure. Surgery may be followed by immunotherapy or targeted therapy if there is a high risk that the cancer will return.
In cases where stage III melanoma cannot be removed by surgery and for patients with stage IV melanoma, surgery may be used to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life, but not to cure the disease. This is called palliative care.