Nodular melanoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It is a very aggressive cancer that can spread within a matter of weeks instead of months or years.
It usually appears as a lump on the skin which may be colorless or which may be blue/black. Since it doesn’t look like what people envision skin cancer looking like they often do not seek treatment for many months.
It most frequently appears on the trunk, neck and head. Nodular melanoma can be very large and can grow very deep.
How does treatment work?
It is critical that treatment for nodular melanoma is sought as soon as a growth is suspected. Knowing your family history can be helpful. Treatment is mainly based on the diagnosis of what stage the tumor is in and whether or not it has spread to other areas of the body.
Most physicians use the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) guidelines for staging melanoma. A stage 0 melanoma can usually be removed with no further complications. Stage 3 or 4 melanoma generally requires surgery, removal of a significant amount of healthy tissue, chemotherapy, and potentially removal of other glands or tissues where the tumor has affected or spread.
The main focus of nodular melanoma treatment is to remove all of the cancer cells and take precautions to make sure they do not grow back. If the nodular melanoma has grown large and deep the focus of treatment may also become to relieve the patient of pain, discomfort, or additional complications they are having due to the tumor’s size or spreading to other parts of the body.
Types of treatment
Surgery is the main treatment for nodular melanoma, but there are also several other options available.
Biologic therapy is also known as immunotherapy. This treatment aims to better position the body’s immune system to fight the tumor.
Perfusion is a type of treatment mainly used in patients whose nodular melanoma is in one of their limbs. This treatment uses chemotherapy, but limits the drugs to the affected limb rather than having them circulate throughout the body. In approximately 78% of cases this treatment has been beneficial.
Radiation is often used in conjunction with other treatments like surgery and chemotherapy. Its main use is to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.
The side effects of nodular melanoma treatment depend on the type of treatment that the patient receives. If they have a stage 0 melanoma that is successfully removed by surgery then chances are they will experience very few side effects.
At the other end of the spectrum a patient with a stage 4 nodular melanoma that is large and has spread will most likely go through surgery as well as chemotherapy and radiation. The side effects can range from pain and discomfort from surgery to ongoing sickness and fatigue as a result of the chemotherapy. In some cases the tumor is so large that skin flaps or skin grafts are needed to close the wound.