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Glossary on

Treatment for Melanoma

Most melanoma is treated with one or more of the following:


Every treatment has potential risks and side effects. Before any new treatment or surgery, make sure your healthcare team tells you about what to expect. 


Surgery is usually the main treatment for melanoma.

  • Wide excision surgery, removing additional tissue around the cancer is used for melanomas that are thicker. 
  • Sentinel lymph node mapping is used during surgery to check if the cancer has spread to nearby . The surgeon injecting substance known as a tracer near the tumor to find the sentinel lymph node or nodes. These are the nodes the cancer is most likely to spread to first. 
    • If cancer is found, the in that area will be removed.
    • If cancer is not found, the rest of the  are left in place.

Depending on the size and location of the melanoma, surgery may require only a local numbing medicine or general anesthesia. 

Radiation therapy

After surgery, radiation therapy may be used to decrease the risk of cancer returning. Radiation therapy may also be used to relieve symptoms if cancer has spread to multiple parts of the body, especially the brain or bones. Different types of radiation therapy are used for different situations. 


Chemotherapy uses drugs to help kill cancer cells. These drugs can be injected into a vein or taken orally. Chemotherapy may be used to treat advanced melanomas that returned after treatment with or

Treatment side effects

Your healthcare team should explain what you should expect from all treatments, including:

  • all of the possible risks and side effects of each treatment.
  • which side effects may be serious and how to tell. 
  • when and who you should call if you experience a side effect.
  • what can be done to treat or alleviate each side effect. 

Make sure you let your healthcare team know if you experience any side effects of your treatment. For more information about possible treatment side effects, see our section on Cancer Treatment by Treatment Type

Last updated January 05, 2024