Melanoma removal is a surgery to remove cancerous tissue in the skin.
Reasons for Procedure
A melanoma removal is done to treat melanoma. For some it may be a cure for melanoma.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a melanoma removal, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Nerve damage
- Incomplete removal of all cancerous cells
- Recurrence or spread of cancer
Smoking may increase the risk of complications.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Depending on the stage of the disease, your doctor may do the following:
Local anesthesia is often used to numb the area where the cancer is removed. General anesthesia may need to be used if the area is large. In this case, you will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
Surgical removal of the cancerous cells is the primary treatment for melanoma. Types of surgery include:
- Simple excision—The tumor is cut out, along with a small amount of normal skin at the edges. The wound is stitched back together. This type of surgery may leave a scar.
- Wide excision—The tumor is cut out along with a larger area of normal skin. This will help make sure there are no cancer cells left behind.
- Amputation—A finger or toe may be removed if the cancer is on the digit.
- Lymph node dissection—Nearby lymph nodes may be removed if there is concern that the cancer spread. The removed lymph nodes will be sent to a lab for study.
The area may be closed with stitches. A larger area may need to be covered with a skin graft from another area of your body.
In more advanced cases of melanoma, other treatments may be necessary. These include:
- Radiation therapy
How Long Will It Take?
This depends on the extent of the melanoma and the type of surgery. Simple excision can take less than 1 hour.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some pain around the wound during recovery. Medication will help manage pain.
Return to have any stitches or staples removed when instructed.
Talk to your doctor about appropriate ways to protect your skin against sun damage. These may include using sun block and wearing protective clothing. You will also need to have regular skin exams to look for the return of cancer cells. Do self-exams to look for any new or changing moles. Your doctor can show you how to do a self-exam.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
- Pain that you can't control with the medications you've been given
- A new lump or discoloration in your skin
- A change such as color, bleeding, itching, or growth in an already-existing mole, either at the surgical site or in a new location
- Any other new or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
- Reviewer: Mohei Abouzied, MD
- Review Date: 03/2016 -
- Update Date: 06/24/2013 -