This article describes and explains the types of melanoma treatments and therapies considered standard of care. So what does the standard of care mean? It refers to the most effective therapies that are available. One should consider clinical trials as an alternative when deciding on a treatment or its approach. A clinical trial is a research study that evaluates a novel therapeutic method. Doctors want to know if the new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better or more efficient than the current treatments. A novel drug is a unique combination of existing therapies or further doses of standard pharmaceuticals. It also incorporates other medicines that one can test in clinical trials. Clinical trials are an option to consider at all the phases of cancer therapy and its care. Physicians can assist you in weighing all of your treatment options.
The cancer care team
Different types of health care specialists frequently develop and collaborate in cancer care to better a patients’ overall treatment plan, which may include a variety of treatments. In other words, a multidisciplinary team. This team for a melanoma patient can consist of the following.
- Dermatologist: A doctor specializing in the infection and conditions of the skin.
- Surgical oncologist: A doctor specializing in the treatment of cancer with surgery.
- Medical oncologist: A doctor specializing in the treatment of cancer with medication.
- Radiation oncologist: A doctor specializing in cancer treatment with radiation therapy.
- Pathologist/Dermatopathologist: A doctor specializing in depicting laboratory tests and assessing the cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose the disease. A dermatopathologist is a pathologist with additional training specialized in the infections of the skin.
- Radiologist: A medical doctor specializing in utilizing imaging tests to diagnose disease.
The thickness of the initial melanoma, whether cancer has spread, the stage of the melanoma, the existence of specific genetic mutations in the melanoma cells, the rate of the melanoma growth, and the patients’ other medical problems all influence treatment recommendations. Future adverse effects and the patient’s preferences and overall health also influence the treatment decisions. This gives you an overview of different treatments, not to provide you with an overview of other therapies, not specific treatment advice. The thickness of the initial melanoma, the existence of specific genetic mutations in the melanoma cells, the rate of melanoma growth, and the patient’s other medical problems all influence treatment recommendations.
Treatment for early-stage melanomas includes surgery typically to remove the melanoma. A doctor can remove a very thin melanoma entirely during the biopsy. Also, it needs no further medication. Otherwise, your surgeon will remove cancer and the tip of the normal skin and a layer of tissue beneath the skin. This may be the only treatment people with early-stage melanomas need.
The following are the descriptions of the most prevalent types of melanoma therapy. One should include treatment for symptoms and their side effects in ones treatment plan. It is an essential element of cancer therapy. Take time to learn about all your treatment options and never hold back to ask questions if you have any concerns. Discuss the aims of each treatment with your medical practitioner and what to expect during treatments. Shared decision making is the term for these types of discussions.
Shared decision making is when you and your doctors work together to identify treatments that match your care objectives. As there are so many treatment options for melanoma, shared decision-making is vital. Find out more about selecting treatment choices.
Doctors during an operation, remove the tumour and some surrounding healthy tissue. A surgical oncologist is usually the one who performs this operation.
Surgery is common option for people with local melanoma and regional melanoma. Surgery may be an option for some persons with metastatic melanoma. Doctors label melanoma as “unresectable” if surgery is not an option. Doctors will examine the stage of the disease and the patient’s particular risk of recurrence when proposing a treatment plan.
Wide excision, lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy, and lymph node dissection are among procedures that the doctors use to treat local and regional melanoma.
Before surgery, talk with your health care team about the possible side effects from the specific surgery you will have. Learn more about the basics of cancer surgery.
The primary therapy for melanoma is the surgical removal of the primary melanoma on the skin, often known as excision. The thickness of the melanoma determines the surgery’s scope. Most melanomas are occur when they are less than 1.0 mm thick. And outpatient surgery is frequently the sole option. A doctor removes the tumour, under-the-skin tissue, and some healthy tissue around it, called a margin, to ensure no cancer cells remain. If a patient requires a sentinel lymph node biopsy, doctors typically perform it concurrently with the broad excision (see Diagnosis and below).
A doctor may require a skin flap or graft depending on the location and scope of the procedure. Doctors suggest that it occurs when they move the surrounding tissue to cover the region removed during surgery. A skin graft heals a wound by using skin from another body section.
Lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy
The surgeon injects a dye and a radioactive tracer into the tumour during this surgical operation. Doctors do this to determine on implanting which lymph nodes. Also, to understand whether the melanoma has spread to them. The surgeon removes one or more sentinel lymph nodes (lymph nodes that take up the dye and radioactive tracer) to screen for melanoma cells. If the doctor cannot identify melanoma cells in the sentinel lymph node(s), the patient does not need any further lymph node surgery. A positive sentinel lymph node has melanoma in the sentinel lymph nodes. This indicates that the disease has spread and lymph node dissection (as described below).
Because the chance of cancer spreading to the lymph nodes is low in non-ulcerated melanomas smaller than 0.8 mm thick. Therefore, doctors do not recommend sentinel lymph node mapping in most situations. However, suppose there are other symptoms that the melanoma is more aggressive, such as ulceration. In that case, the doctor may consider this operation for a person with a thin, high-risk melanoma (see Diagnosis). If the melanoma is less than 0.8 mm in diameter, your doctor will consider whether this procedure is appropriate depending on the primary melanoma’s characteristics and other criteria.
Sentinel lymph node mapping performs well if concurrent with melanoma removal surgery. This is because surgery can alter lymphatic drainage patterns.
Lymph node dissection
Sometimes through the biopsy results, doctors can demonstrate the malignancy in the sentinel lymph nodes. In other words, positive sentinel lymph node. This indicates that the infection has spread. However, in the past, doctors used to remove more lymph nodes. A procedure known as complete lymph node dissection (CLND). Recent data, however, reveals that this surgery has little effect on how long patients live. In most cases, doctors recommend close monitoring with regular physical exams and lymph node ultrasounds instead of a CLND. The amount of lymph nodes removed varies depending on the body part.
The amount of lymph nodes removed varies depending on the body part. After CLND, a patient’s recovery time will be longer, and the chance of side effects will increase. People who have had a CLND around an arm or leg are more likely to develop lymphedema or fluid build up in that limb. Discuss the risks and benefits of having lymph node dissection with your doctor. Doctors may discover an enlarged lymph node during a physical exam, a scan, or an ultrasound. Doctors will likely perform a biopsy and acquire staging images if this occurs. They may propose a lymph node dissection if there is no other sign of spread. Doctors usually agree that it’s critical to get rid of it.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to kill cancer cells. The most common radiation treatment method is external-beam radiation therapy. In this, radiation occurs from a machine outside the body. The radiation beam this machine produces aims in different directions. The doctors also block this using unique techniques. Doctors do this to help reduce side effects. The radiation oncologist will recommend a precise radiation therapy regimen, or schedule, with a total number of treatments and dose of radiation.
Doctors recommend radiation therapy after surgery, radiation to prevent cancer from returning, known as a recurrence. Adjuvant radiation treatment is the term for this type of radiation therapy. According to studies, while this may reduce melanoma recurrence in the radiation-treated area, it does not affect how long a person lives. Adjuvant radiation therapy has different adverse effects. However, it depends on the treatment of various parts of the body. According to the findings of current clinical trials, a person’s overall quality of life is comparable to that of persons who do not receive it. However, some individuals who received adjuvant radiation therapy in those studies experienced worse symptoms in the first year.
Palliative radiation therapy
If your melanoma has spread and is causing symptoms like bone pain or headaches, radiation therapy may assist. Palliative radiation therapy is the term for this type of treatment. Palliative radiation treatment is provided to some people to treat an entire organ with several modest doses of radiation, such as whole-brain radiation therapy. Other times, the doctors use a linear accelerator (or “linac”), Gamma Knife, CyberKnife, or TomoTherapy device to provide one or a few large doses of radiation therapy. Stereotactic radiosurgery, stereotactic ablative radiation treatment, or stereotactic body radiation therapy are all terms for the same thing. It is most effective when only one or a few tumours in the brain or elsewhere in the body are present.
Doctors usually go for radiation therapy when cancer they observe the cancer progressing to the lymph nodes or skin and when they cannot be remove it surgically. Researchers are also evaluating the efficacy of combining radiation therapy with melanoma medications.
Side effects of radiation therapy
The general side effects of radiation therapy can include skin irritation, skin infections, and fatigue. These side effects usually get better after a couple of weeks after the radiation therapy. Topical corticosteroid creams and antibiotics are useful to help prevent and treat radiation-induced skin irritations and reactions.
Depending on the part of the area of the body that is getting treatment with radiation therapy, the side effects may develop. For example, after completing the treatment to the head and neck region, temporary irritation of the mouth or difficulty swallowing can sometimes occur. If treatment was towards the armpit or the groin area, the person might have a higher risk of lymphedema. It sometimes can be a long-term, ongoing side effect. Talk with the radiation oncologist and your medical practitioner to learn more about the possible side effects you may experience and how you can be manage them.
Therapies using medication
The use of drugs to kill cancer cells, in other words, is systemic treatment. Doctor injects this sort of drug into the bloodstream to reach cancer cells all over the body. A medical oncologist, a clinician specializing in using medications to treat cancer, usually prescribes systemic therapy.
The doctor either inserts an intravenous (IV) tube inserted into a vein with a needle. Or the patient eats a pill or capsule. These are the two common ways to administer systemic medicines.
The types of systemic therapies used for melanoma include:
- Targeted therapy
- Chemo therapy
However, the doctors recommend one form of systemic therapy at a time. They also give various systemic treatments simultaneously. However, one can also use them with surgery and radiation therapy.
The drugs used to treat cancer are in testing all the time. The best approach to understand the prescriptions given for you, their purpose, and any potential adverse effects or combinations with other medications is to speak with your doctor. It’s also crucial to inform your doctor if you’re taking any additional medications or supplements, prescription or over-the-counter. Cancer treatments can interact with herbs, vitamins, and other medicines.
Immunotherapy, in other words, biologic therapy, helps to boost the body’s natural immune system to fight cancer. It utilizes materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Understand more about the fundamentals of immunotherapy.
In recent times, there have been standard advancements in the treatment of stage III and stage IV melanoma with the help of immunotherapy. Even though immunotherapy can effectively treat melanoma, many possible side effects are still available. Different types of immunotherapy can cause various side effects. Common side effects include skin reactions, flu-like symptoms, diarrhoea, and weight changes. Learn more about the side effects of immunotherapy.
PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors
PD-1 inhibitors and PD-L1 inhibitors are a group of checkpoints that are anticancer drugs that block the activity of PD-1 and PDL1 immune checkpoint proteins present on the cells’ surface. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are growing as a front-line treatment for several types of cancer. 
In immunotherapy for melanoma, two monoclonal antibodies block a protein called programmed death-1 (PD-1) that the FDA has approved to treat stage II, stage III, or metastatic melanoma: nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda). PD-1 is present on the surface of T cells and interacts with a protein PD-L1. T cells are a type of white blood cell that directly helps the body’s immune system fight against the disease. The PD-1/PD-L1 protein interaction keeps the immune system from destroying cancer. Drugs that stop PD-1 and PD-L1 from working allow the immune system to better target melanoma cells.
Nivolumab and pembrolizumab, depending on when the medication is given, have been proven to diminish melanoma in 25% to 45% of patients with unresectable or stage IV melanoma. Both the medicines have also been found to lower the incidence of melanoma recurrence following surgery for stage III melanoma. Pembrolizumab has recently been found to minimize the likelihood of cancer returning following the surgery in patients with high-risk stage II melanoma, that is, Stage IIB and Stage IIC. When compared to ipilimumab, nivolumab and pembrolizumab had fewer side effects. Whether or not the melanoma has BRAF mutation, ASCO recommends nivolumab or pembrolizumab as a treatment option for stage III melanoma after surgery, unresectable melanoma, and metastatic melanoma.
The PD-L1 INHIBITOR atezolizumab can treat metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600 mutation. The FDA approved atezolizumab for use in combination with two targeted therapies, cobimetinib, a MEK inhibitor, and vemurafenib, a BRAF inhibitor, in 2020.
Ipilimumab, marketed under Yervoy, is an immunotherapy treatment for the last stage melanoma that targets a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated molecule-4 (CTLA-4). Two research experiments and trials have shown that people with unresectable or metastatic melanoma taking ipilimumab had an improved chance of survival than those who only received traditional chemotherapy. Ipilimumab diminishes melanoma for 10% to 15% of patients. Those responses may last years and maybe forever in many patients who benefit.
The FDA also approves ipilimumab to treat unresectable melanoma and metastatic melanoma. Researchers also approve this for adjuvant treatment of stage III melanoma post-surgery. Ipilimumab has a sharp rate of severe, life-threatening side effects. Because of the strong momentum of severe side effects, ASCO does not suggest it for routine use in stage III melanoma. ASCO does recommend its service in combination with nivolumab to treat unresectable and metastatic melanoma.
The side effects of ipilimumab include significant colon inflammation (colitis), liver issues, skin irritations, nerve and hormone gland inflammation, and eye problems. Doctors closely monitor patients for diarrhoea, rashes, itching, and other side effects. Before the treatment process starts, be sure to talk to your medical practitioner and your team about the potential side effects of the treatment. Understand and explain to your health care team right away if you develop any new symptoms or any further signs during treatment. It is also essential to convey everything to your health care team about all other medications you are undergoing, including over-the-counter drugs and dietary or herbal supplements, to avoid any possible side effects from drug interactions with ipilimumab.
Researches and studied in clinical trials continue to exist in Ipilimumab and other CTLA-4 inhibitors.
Combining PD-1 and CTLA-4 inhibitors
Doctors treat Unresectable Stage III or Stage IV melanoma with a combination of ipilimumab and nivolumab. This combination is more effective than either treatment alone at shrinking tumors and slowing tumor growth, with 58 per cent of the people who take out seeing their tumors decrease. On the other hand, combining these medications results in considerably more significant adverse effects. The decision to offer this combination therapy frequently depends on the rate at which the disease is developing, the extent to which cancer has spread, and the person’s overall condition. ASCO recommends this combination, along with nivolumab alone, as a treatment option for unresectable stage III or metastatic melanoma, whether or not the tumor has a BRAF mutation.
Interleukin-2 (IL-2, Proleukin)
Interleukin-2, which activates T cells, is another kind of immunotherapy. Doctors sometimes give it to people with metastatic melanoma. The percentage of patients who respond to this medication is similar to that of ipilimumab, about 16%, with fewer than 10% obtaining a complete response. The whole reaction occurs when all cancer indications have vanished due to treatment. The medicine frequently causes many adverse side effects: flu-like symptoms, fever, chills and aches.
Rashes and gastrointestinal side effects are the most prevalent IL-2 adverse effects, namely nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Capillary leak syndrome, occurs when fluids and proteins leak from blood arteries. In other words, caused by IL-2. Capillary leak syndrome can result in dangerously low blood pressure and other complications. For a small proportion of people taking IL-2, the drug’s side effects can be exceedingly serious, even life-threatening. The medical staff must closely monitor patients given high doses of IL-2. A skilled health care team familiar with the adverse effects of IL-2 medication should administer it.
Virus Therapy is an immunological treatment. FDA has approved the use of talimogene laherparepvec or T-VEC; lmlygic for the treatment of unresectable stage III and stage IV melanoma. T-VEC is a lab-created herpes virus that produces an immune-stimulating hormone. Virus can infect and destroy Melanoma cells. T – VEC also aids the immune system in eliminating additional melanoma cancer. T-VEC is also intralesional therapy since doctors inject it directly into one or more melanoma tumors. Patients with broadly metastatic cancer are rarely provided T-VEC because it does not promote considerable shrinking of non injected tumors in patients. Doctors give T-VEC to patients who are unable or unwilling to receive other treatments with unresectable or metastatic melanoma . Laboratories are testing them in conjunction with other drugs to see if it can improve its efficacy.
High-dose interferon alfa-2b (Intron A). When given over a year, high-dose interferon alfa-2b is an immunotherapy that has been revealed to delay recurrence for some cancer patients. Although, it has not been seen to lengthen how long most people live. This treatment has fundamental and common side effects, including flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, headache; rashes; hair thinning, and depression. As the side effects and not lengthen the life cycle life for most patients who receive this treatment, ASCO does not suggest the routine use of high-dose interferon.
Pegylated interferon alfa-2b (Sylatron). This type of immunotherapy is given by weekly injection for up to 5 years and has delayed recurrences for some patients. Although, it has not been shown to lengthen the life span of then cancer patients. The side effects are very much related to high-dose interferon alfa-2b. As most patients’ side effects and treatments do not live longer, ASCO does not recommend the routine use of pegylated interferon.
Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that focuses on the genes, proteins, or tissue environment that contribute to cancer growth and survival. This treatment method stops cancer cells from growing and spreading while limiting damage to healthy cells. Find out more about the fundamentals of targeted therapy.
Current research has revealed numerous critical pathways and genes involved in the growth and spread of melanoma, as detailed here and in the Diagnosis. These advancements now allow clinicians to adapt or personalize treatment plans depending on the genetic anomalies or mutations found in melanoma. Developing novel medications that disrupt specific biochemical pathways that melanoma cells require for growth is a crucial research focus.
The finding that nearly half of all melanomas have a mutant or active BRAF gene has opened up a new avenue for melanoma targeted treatments for people with unresectable stage III and Stage IV melanoma include dabrafenib encorafenib and vemurafenib. These medications, administered as pills, treat melanoma cancers that contain a V600E or V600K mutation in the BRAF gene. Patients who do not have the mutation should not use these medications since they may harm them. Multiple studies have indicated that combining a MEK inhibitor with a BRAF inhibitor with a BRAF inhibitor increases tumor shrinkage and delays tumor progression.
To treat metastatic melanoma with BRAF V600 mutations, one can combine vemurafenib with atezolizumab and the MEK inhibitor cobimetinib. In critical trials, both medications decreased tumors in most patients with metastatic melanoma with the mutant BRAF gene. Vemurafenib proved to improve patient survival by approximately a year on average. No one formally investigated the effect of dabrafenib on overall survival.
All vemurafenib side effects include rashes, hair thinning, thick or dry skin, sun sensitivity, and a less dangerous form of skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). The doctors can often cure them with a simple surgery. Other adverse side effects were joint discomfort, weariness, nausea, fever, and curling. Dabrafenib appears to have fewer side effects, such as thick or dry skin and hair thinning, and causes sun sensitivity only in rare cases. Before starting therapy, talk to your medical practitioner about the possible side effects.
Trametinib, also known as Mekinist, is a targeted therapy for melanoma with a BRAF V600E or V600K mutation that is unresectable or metastatic. The MEK protein, essential in cancer growth and survival, is mainly targeted by this medicine, which is given as a tablet. Trametinib was licenced after a clinical trial found that people with stage IIIC or Stage IV melanoma who took this targeted medication survived longer without their cancer worsening than those who got chemotherapy. Trametinib can cause an ache like rash, nail irritation, itching, dry skin, and diarrhoea as adverse side effects.
Other MEK inhibitors licenced to treat melanoma include cobimetinib and binimetinib, although they must be taken in combination with other drugs. The following sections go over such combinations in greater depth. To treat metastatic melanoma with BRAF V600 mutation, Cobimetinib can be combined with atezolizumab and the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib.
Combining BRAF and MEK inhibitors
BRAF and MEK inhibitor combos have been found in clinical trials to have better outcomes and fewer adverse effects than BRAF or MEK inhibitors alone. When target therapy is offered to patients with tumors that include BRAF mutations, it is common to propose one of the three authorized combinations. After surgery, ASCO supports Dabrafenib plus trametinib as a treatment option for stage III melanoma with a BRAF mutation. ASCO recommends dabrafenib plus trametinib, encorafenib plus binimetinib, or vemurafenib plus cobimetinib for unresectable or metastatic melanoma with BRAF mutation.
Dabrafenib and trametinib.
In one study, the combination of dabrafenib, a BRAF inhibitor, and trametinib, a MEK inhibitor, was associated with better tumor shrinkage rates, delayed tumor growth and longer life compared to vemurafenib alone. In the other study, dabrafenib alone was associated with better tumor shrinkage rates, delayed tumor growth, and longer life than vemurafenib. The FDA approved the combination of dabrafenib and trametinib to treat unresectable advanced melanoma and metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600E or V600K mutation as a consequence of these studies. People with melanoma with a detectable BRAF mutation are unlikely to benefit from this combination.
A more recent clinical study or trial found that a year of treatment with the combination of dabrafenib and trametinib following surgery improved outcomes in people with Stage III melanoma. This research led to the approval of this combination in 2018 as adjuvant therapy for people who have had their stage III melanoma surgically removed. Fever, chills, fatigue, rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, swelling in the hands and feet, cough, headache, joint pain, night sweats, decreased appetite, constipation, and muscle soreness are the most typical side effects of this combination. When a patient uses dabrafenib and trametinib are together, they have fewer adverse effects than when taken separately, such as a lower rate of secondary skin malignancies and rash.
Vemurafenib and cobimetinib –
In 2015, the FDA authorized a second BRAF and MEK inhibitor combo. Vemurafenib, a BRAF inhibitor, and cobimetinib, a MEK inhibitor, make up this combination. Compared to vemurafenib alone, a clinical trial found that the variety of vemurafenib and an assortment of vemurafenib and cobimetinib is related to more excellent tumor shrinkage rates, delayed tumor growth, and longer life. Tiredness, nausea, diarrhoea, joint ache, sun sensitivity, rash, fever, liver inflammation, and swelling in the hands and feet are all common adverse effects of this combination.
Encorafenib and binimetinib –
The FDA authorized the third combination in June 2018, combining the BRAF inhibitor encorafenib with the MEK inhibitor binimetinib. The phase III clinical research showed that this combination helped patients survive longer than vemurafenib alone. Fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and joint pain were the most common adverse effects of this combination.
The FDA authorized the third combination in June 2018, combining the BRAF inhibitor with the MEK inhibitor binimetinib. According to phase III clinical research, this combination helped patients survive longer than vemurafenib alone. Fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and joint pain were the most common adverse effects of this combination.
Larotrectinib is a targeted medicine that targets a specific genetic mutation called an NTRK fusion rather than a particular type of cancer. Melanoma is one of the types of malignancies with this type of gene alteration. It is approved for unresectable or metastatic melanoma with an NTRK fusion that hasn’t responded to prior treatments.
It uses medications to kill cancer cells by preventing them from growing, dividing, and producing new ones.
However, doctors use this significantly less frequently in the treatment of melanoma because immunotherapy and targeted therapy are more successful.
A chemotherapy regimen, often known as a schedule, consists of a defined number of cycles administered over a set period. A patient may receive a single medicine at a time or a mixture of drugs simultaneously. The sole FDA- approved treatment for melanoma is dacarbazine. Patients can take Temozolomide (a dacarbazine) orally. And, it is useful in treating stage IV melanoma.
According to reports, DTIC and temozolomide reduce melanoma in 12 – 15 % of individuals. However, there have been no scientific trials to see if these medications help people with melanoma live longer following therapy. Both drugs have a smaller number of adverse side effects. Consult your medical practitioner about the potential negative side effects of these medications.
Other chemotherapies used to treat melanoma include cisplatin, fotemustine, lomustine, taxanes, a class of medications that include docetaxel and paclitaxel vinblastine, a generic drug. Chemotheray medicines in combinations have a higher likelihood of shrinking melanoma, but they also have a higher risk of side effects.
Side effects of chemotherapy vary by person and dose. Still, they can include exhaustion, infection risk, nausea and vomiting, nail changes, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nerve damage that causes changes in feeling, and hair loss.
Melanoma can sometimes spread and manifest as a cluster of tumours in the leg or arm. There are far too many tumours for surgery to be effective in these cases. A doctor may propose isolated limb infusion or perfusion with chemotherapy, depending on the overall extent and pattern of tumor spread.
A doctor applies tourniquet to the arm or leg before administering heavy dosages of chemotherapy. The interventional radiology team implants a catheter to provide the chemotherapy in isolated limb infusion. Small tubes called cannulae are surgically implanted to deliver the chemotherapy in isolated limb perfusion. The tourniquet holds the chemotherapy in place in the arm or leg, preventing it from spreading throughout the body. A doctor usually gives treatment under general anaesthesia.
As a result of this treatment, around 50% to 80% of tumours in the area where the chemotherapy is circulated diminish. Melanoma can be controlled for a year or more in some people, even if tumour decrease is very transitory. In addition, researchers are evaluating the efficacy of combining isolated limb infusion therapy with other treatments.
Physical, emotional, and social effects of cancer
Physical symptoms and side effects and emotional, social, and economic impacts are all caused by melanoma and its treatment. Palliative care, also known as supportive care, is the process of coping with all of these side effects. It’s a vital aspect of your treatment, and the doctors include this with medicines aimed at slowing, stopping, or eliminating cancer.
Palliative care focuses on treating symptoms and assisting patients and their families with non-medical needs while undergoing treatment. This form of therapy is available to everybody, regardless of age, cancer type, or stage. And it’s most effective when started soon after a cancer diagnosis. People who receive palliative care in addition to cancer therapy frequently have fewer symptoms, a higher quality of life, and are more satisfied with their treatment.
Medication, nutritional adjustments, relaxation techniques, emotional and spiritual support, and other therapies are common palliative treatments. You may also receive palliative treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy compared to those used to treat cancer.
Before starting treatment, discuss the aims of each treatment in the recommended treatment plan with your doctor. You should also consult the treatment plan’s potential adverse effects and palliative care options. Many patients find that chatting with a social worker and attending support groups are beneficial. Inquire with your doctor about these options as well.
During therapy, your health care provider may ask you to detail each problem and answer questions about your symptoms and side effects. If you have a problem, make sure to alert your healthcare staff. This enables the medical team to treat any symptoms or adverse effects as soon as feasible. It may also aid in preventing more significant issues in the future.
Treatment by stage of melanoma
Doctors recommend different treatments for each stage of melanoma. The following are general descriptions of each level. Based on the background of your cancer and other criteria, your doctor will propose a treatment strategy for you. Earlier on this page, detailed descriptions of each type of treatment are provided. Clinical trials may be a possibility for each step of treatment.
Stage 0 melanoma
Doctors typically use surgery alone to treat stage 0 melanoma, which usually entails a large excision.
Stage I melanoma
Doctors usually treat Stage I melanoma with surgical excision of the tumour and some surrounding healthy tissue. The doctor may propose lymph node mapping and the removal of some lymph nodes.
Stage II melanoma
Surgery to remove the tumour and some healthy tissue around it is the conventional treatment for stage II melanoma. Lymph node mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy may be performed concurrently with this procedure. Interferon medication may be advised following surgery in some persons with stage II melanoma to reduce the odds of the tumour returning. Treatment for stage II melanoma in a clinical trial may be a possibility.
Stage III melanoma (can be removed with surgery)
Stage III melanoma has spread locally or through the lymphatic system to a regional lymph node at the site of cancer’s onset or to a cutaneous site on route to a lymph node. If surgery can remove stage III melanoma, that will be the primary therapeutic choice. Doctors examine the lymph nodes for cancer and remove them if cancerous. Following surgery, the doctors may prescribe immunotherapy or targeted therapy to help prevent cancer from returning. Treatment for stage III melanoma in a clinical trial may be a possibility. Inquire with your doctor about clinical trials that may be appropriate for you. These trials may include neoadjuvant therapy, which uses systemic treatment before surgery.
A stage III melanoma that cannot be treated with surgery, or a stage IV melanoma, is referred to as advanced melanoma. At stage IV, melanoma has progressed to other body regions, such as distant lymph nodes, the liver, lung, brain, bone, or the gastrointestinal system. Doctors call it metastatic melanoma. If this happens, it’s a good idea to seek medical advice from experts who have dealt with such situations before. Different doctors may have differing views on the optimal conventional treatment strategy. Clinical trials are another possibility. Learn more about getting a second opinion before beginning treatment, so you’re confident in your decision.
Unresectable stage III and stage IV melanoma are frequently treated with immunotherapy and targeted therapy or chemotherapy in rare situations. Surgery or radiation therapy to treat damaged lymph nodes and smaller tumours that have disseminated elsewhere in the body may also be indicated as palliative or supportive treatments to reduce symptoms. A lot of things will influence the treatment plan:
- Age and general health of the individual
- The number and location of metastases
- How quickly is the sickness spreading?
- The tumor’s presence of specific genetic alterations
- The preferences of the patient
Your medical practitioner may consider altering your treatment plan if the approved treatment does not work, stops working, or causes significant adverse effects.
A diagnosis of advanced cancer is distressing and unpleasant for most people. Doctors, nurses, social workers, and other members of the health care team encourage you and your family to talk about how you’re feeling. It may also be beneficial to speak with other sufferers, such as at a support group.
Treating brain metastases
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers to spread to the brain. Unfortunately, brain metastases are in line with a bad prognosis. The prognosis refers to the likelihood of recovery. In the past, only around half of those with melanoma that has progressed to the brain lived for six months, but this has changed in recent years. People with melanoma that has spread to the brain are often excluded from clinical trials due to their poor prognosis and the perceived difficulties of delivering cancer treatments into brain tissue (known as the blood-brain barrier). Fortunately, this is improving, and clinical trials for patients with melanoma and brain metastases have just been completed or are currently underway.
When there are only a few metastatic tumours in the brain, high-dose radiation therapy employing stereotactic techniques (see “Radiation therapy,” above) is frequently used. These methods are pretty effective at removing existing malignancies. They do not, however, prevent the growth of new tumours. Radiation therapy can treat the entire brain, known as whole-brain radiation therapy. However, because the dose of radiation used to treat the whole brain is lower, this sort of treatment seldom shrinks tumours and frequently causes cognitive issues.
BRAF and MEK inhibitors
Combinations of a BRAF and a MEK inhibitor may be advised for persons with melanoma who have a BRAF mutation. These medications are capable of penetrating brain metastases. Clinical trials have indicated that when these drugs are used to treat melanoma tumours in the brain, they decrease 40% to 50% of the time. If you have a BRAF V600E mutation and are experiencing symptoms from brain metastases, your doctor may consider a combination of BRAF and MEK inhibitors.
Ipilimumab, nivolumab, and pembrolizumab have recently been tested in clinical studies to treat melanoma that has progressed to the brain. Patients with melanoma with brain metastases may benefit from these treatments, according to this research. With or without a BRAF mutation, the doctor may offer ipilimumab plus nivolumab treatment for patients who have no symptoms from brain metastases. Although this treatment with ipilimumab and nivolumab looks effective, it has a high rate of side effects and may not be the best option for everyone.
Some people may be offered surgery to remove brain tumours, especially if they are causing symptoms.
A comprehensive overview of when and how surgery and radiation therapy are utilized to treat brain metastases may be found below:
Stereotactic radiosurgery is used to treat people who have one to three brain metastases. If the brain metastases are significant or causing symptoms due to pressure on the brain, and the patient is in good health, surgery with stereotactic radiosurgery is frequently used.
Stereotactic radiosurgery or whole-brain radiation therapy may be used to treat persons in reasonably good health who have more than four tumours that cannot be removed medically or more than two tumours that have been surgically removed.
If the disease outside the brain is not worsening, people with metastatic cancer in other parts of the body usually continue their treatment programme. If the disease progresses, the treatment plan may be altered following the guidelines for that type of metastatic cancer.
Remission and the chance of recurrence
When cancer is undetectable in the body and there are no symptoms, it is in remission. This is also known as NED, or “no evidence of disease.”
A remission may be temporary or permanent. Many individuals are concerned that cancer will return due to this uncertainty. While many remissions are durable, it’s crucial to discuss the potential of cancer returning with your doctor. Knowing your recurrence risk and treatment options will help you feel better prepared if cancer returns. Find out how to deal with the worry of recurrence.
Melanoma that returns after therapy is referred to as recurrent cancer. It may reoccur in the exact location (called a local recurrence) or in a nearby area (called a regional recurrence).
When this happens, a new testing cycle will begin to understand as much as possible about the recurrence. Following the testing, you and your doctor will discuss treatment choices. The treatments listed above, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy, are frequently included in treatment plans. Still, they may be utilized in a different order or at a different pace. Your doctor may refer you to clinical studies looking for novel ways to treat recurring cancer. Palliative care will be vital for alleviating symptoms and side effects regardless of the treatment option you choose.
Recurrent cancer patients may experience emotions such as bewilderment or anxiety. You are urged to discuss your thoughts with your health care team and inquire about support options to assist you in coping.
If treatment does not work
Melanoma recovery is not always achievable. Cancer may be classified as advanced or terminal if it cannot be cured or controlled.
This is a frightening diagnosis, and advanced cancer is difficult to discuss for many individuals. However, it’s critical to have open and honest discussions about your feelings, choices, and concerns with your healthcare provider. The healthcare staff has specialized skills, expertise, and experience to assist patients and their families. Ensuring that a person is physically comfortable, pain-free, and emotionally supported is critical.
People with advanced cancer and a life expectancy of fewer than six months may benefit from hospice care. Hospice care aims to give those nearing the end of their lives the best quality of life possible. You and your family are invited to discuss hospice care alternatives with the health care team, including hospice at home, a particular hospice centre, or other health care facilities. For many families, remaining at home with nursing care and appropriate equipment is a viable alternative.