Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatments By Stage

Skin cancer is incredibly common, and melanoma is often caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. Like any form of cancer, it is serious and can metastasize to other parts of the body. Treatment largely depends on the stage. If you would like to know more, keep reading.

Stage 0

Stage 0 melanoma (aka melanoma in situ) is contained within the topmost layer of skin. At this stage, treatment usually involves surgery to remove the melanoma and any tissue in direct contact with the melanoma. If cancerous cells are detected in the nearby tissue, more skin may be removed.

In some cases, the doctor may recommend Mohs surgery. During this procedure, a thin layer of skin is removed and examined. The process continues until a layer has no signs of skin cancer. This process takes a long time, but it is good for melanoma on the face.

Stage I

Stage I melanoma has spread deeper into the epidermis and may be poking into the dermis. Treatment for stage I melanoma is similar to stage 0, but much more healthy tissue is removed to ensure every cancer cell is removed. At this stage, the cancer has usually not spread to lymph nodes, but it is possible. If the doctor suspects it has spread to a lymph node, it will be tested and removed if necessary.

Stage II

By stage II, the cancer has spread to the dermis, and it may have spread to nearby lymph nodes, so the doctor may test them, regardless of your symptoms. Treatment often starts with surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. Any affected lymph nodes are also removed. In some cases, doctors may recommend immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Stage III

By stage III, the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, and it may have spread further into the skin. Treatment requires surgery to remove the melanoma, surrounding tissue, and affected lymph nodes. After surgery, most patients also need immunotherapy, targeted therapies, and/or radiation therapy.

Stage IV

Stage IV melanoma has metastasized beyond the affected area and lymph nodes to other parts of the body like the lungs or liver. In rare cases, the melanoma can even metastasize to the brain, which is extremely difficult to treat.

Treatment largely varies from patient to patient. In some cases, surgery may be used to remove metastases from other parts of the body, but much of the treatment involves radiation, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and/or chemotherapy.

Skin cancer often starts as a small wound or mole, but it can spread if left untreated. If you haven't been screened for skin cancer, it's time to visit your dermatologist. If you would like to know more, schedule a skin cancer screening appointment today.