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Melanoma removal is a surgery to remove cancerous tissue in the skin.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
A melanoma removal is done to treat melanoma. For some it may be a cure for melanoma.
Possible Complications TOP
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:
Smoking may increase the risk of complications.
What to Expect TOP
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 TOP
Surgical removal of the cancerous cells is the primary treatment for melanoma. Types of surgery include:
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.
After Procedure TOP
In more advanced cases of melanoma, other treatments may be necessary. These include:
How Long Will It Take? TOP
This depends on the extent of the melanoma and the type of surgery. Simple excision can take less than 1 hour.
Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some pain around the wound during recovery. Medication will help manage pain.
Postoperative Care TOP
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 TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Academy of Dermatology
American Cancer Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Society of Plastic Surgery
Bichakjian CK, Halpern AC, Johnson TM, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of primary cutaneous melanoma. American Academy of Dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011;65(5):1032-1047.
Lens MB, Nathan P, Bataille V. Excision margins for primary cutaneous melanoma: updated pooled analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Surg. 2007;142(9):885-891.
Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated February 5, 2015. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Melanoma: diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/melanoma. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
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Updated December 23, 2014. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Physician quality reporting system quality measures. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 19, 2014. Accessed October 10, 2016.
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 6/24/2013
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