If you've been diagnosed with skin cancer (melanoma), you want to find the best treatment possible. With early detection, melanoma is almost always curable. Melanoma experts in the Sutter Health network offer advanced diagnostic and treatment options, including new highly effective therapies. Your doctors will work with you to find the best possible options for your condition. Here are some of the services we provide.
Diagnosing and Treating Skin Cancer
Melanoma experts in the Sutter Health network use a variety of surgical procedures to sample your cells (skin biopsy) or remove an entire growth.
- Shave Biopsy — The top layer of cells on a growth is shaved off with a surgical knife.
- Punch Biopsy — The doctor uses a tool that looks like a cookie cutter to remove a more extensive tissue sample, going deeper into the skin layers.
- Incisional and Excisional Biopsies — The doctor surgically removes a portion of the growth (incisional) or the entire growth (excisional).
To determine if melanoma has spread to other parts of your body, your doctor may do a lymph node biopsy. Rather than removing all nearby lymph nodes, which can cause troubling side effects, Sutter Health network doctors often do a procedure called sentinel lymph node mapping (or sentinel lymph node biopsy).
If cancerous cells are found in the sentinel node, the doctor may remove all of the other nearby lymph nodes (lymph node dissection) and have them examined in the lab.
If removing a melanoma leaves a significant scar, you may choose to have reconstructive surgery to improve your appearance.
Traditional chemotherapy may also be used to treat melanoma, but it’s not used as often as these newer approaches.
- Immunotherapy/Biologic Therapy — Uses substances that take advantage of the immune system to kill cancer cells.
- Targeted Therapy — Uses drugs to focus on a specific part of the cancer cells, ultimately disrupting their ability to function and causing the cells to die.
- Hyperthermic Isolated Limb Perfusion — Can be used when an advanced melanoma is limited to an arm or a leg. In a surgical setting, blood flow to and from the arm or leg is stopped temporarily, and a high dose of chemotherapy is delivered to the affected area.
External beam radiation therapy may be used to treat melanoma. It is most often used to treat the area where lymph nodes were removed, rather than the skin area where the melanoma arose.
Being treated for melanoma can have a major impact on your life. Throughout your treatment, your doctors and specialists will work with you to provide pain management and palliative care services to help you maintain a good quality of life.
You might also want to take advantage of some of the special services and support we offer at many of our locations, such as support groups and help from social workers, psychologists and nurse navigators.