Font Size
A
A
A

Surgical Excision of Melanoma


Surgery Overview

Surgery to remove (excise) a melanoma removes the entire melanoma along with a border (margin) of normal-appearing skin. The width of the border of normal skin removed depends on the depth of the melanoma. More tissue, usually skin and fat, is also removed from under the melanoma.

  • Small excisions may be closed with stitches and heal without problems.
  • Large excisions or those located on the hands, face, or feet may require a skin graft to close the wound after surgery.

The type of anesthetic used for your surgery depends on the size and location of the melanoma. Surgery on small, easily reached melanomas may require only a local anesthetic, while surgery for larger melanomas may require general anesthesia.

See a picture of:

What To Expect After Surgery

Recovery after surgery to remove a melanoma depends upon the site and extent of surgery. The wound may take longer to heal if reconstructive surgery techniques such as skin grafts are used.

Why It Is Done

Surgery is the most common treatment for melanoma and is done to remove the primary melanoma. Sometimes lymph nodes may be removed at the same time to check them for cancer. Surgery also may be done to remove lymph nodes that have cancer or to remove tumors that may have spread to other parts of the body.

How Well It Works

Surgery to remove the primary melanoma usually cures melanoma if it is found early. Surgery may cure melanoma if the cancer is only in the nearby lymph nodes.

Surgery may be used to treat metastatic melanoma by removing the primary melanoma and cancer from nearby tissues or lymph nodes. This only cures the cancer in a few cases. But surgery may provide the most effective and longest-lasting relief of symptoms.

Risks

Risks of surgery to remove melanoma include:

  • Infection.
  • Scarring.
  • Bleeding.
  • Rejection of skin graft.

What To Think About

In some cases a sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed before or during surgical excision of a melanoma.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerAlexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last RevisedDecember 17, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.






Medical Dictionary