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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.
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. Surgery for larger melanomas may require general anesthesia.
Surgery to remove (excise) melanoma removes the cancer and a border of healthy tissue. In the "Area of excision" picture:
If the excision is small, the skin may be closed with stitches after surgery. The "After surgery" picture shows the usual shape of the scar after surgery to remove a small melanoma.
If the excision is large, a skin graft may be needed.
Other ways of removing a melanoma can leave a round scar or a scar shaped a little like the letter "Z."
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.
Surgery is the most common treatment for 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 tumours that may have spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery to remove the 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. This only cures the cancer in a few cases. But surgery may provide the most effective and longest-lasting relief of symptoms.
Risks of surgery to remove melanoma include:
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology
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