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Melanoma Surgery

What are melanocytes?

Melanocytes produce a pigment called melanin, which determines the colour of our skin. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in these skin cells called melanocytes. It primarily occurs on the skin, but can also occur in other parts of the body including the eyes and the bowel. Melanoma is a malignant (cancerous) tumour that spreads to other parts of your body and is considered the most dangerous skin cancer, which can even lead to death when not diagnosed and treated early.

What is melanoma surgery?

Melanoma surgery is the standard first line treatment for melanoma.

How is melanoma surgery performed?

Melanoma surgery is performed under general or local anaesthesia depending on the location and size of the melanoma. Your surgeon makes an incision and removes the melanoma completely along with a margin of the surrounding normal tissue to reduce the risk of any remaining cancer cells. The depth and width of the excision depends on the thickness of the melanoma and the extent to which it has invaded the skin. The incision is then closed with stitches. Larger excisions may require a skin graft, where skin from another part of your body is removed to cover the wound.

Along with excising the involved skin, the lymph nodes may also be removed to prevent further spread of the cancer to other parts of the body. This may be as a biopsy of a normal draining lymph node or the removal of all the regional lymph nodes if they are involved with cancer.

What are the complications of melanoma surgery?

As with any surgery, melanoma surgery may involve certain risks and complications which include infection, bleeding, scarring and skin graft rejection.