When was your last skin check?  SunDoctors recommends having an annual skin check and more frequent consultations if you’re over the age of 50.  No referral required.  Book online or call 13SKIN.

What Melanoma Treatment Options are Available to Me?

SunDoctors icon

Melanoma is a serious condition, and you wouldn't be alone if you were wondering what treatment options are available.

It's important to recognise from the beginning that the best person to guide you on how to address and treat melanoma is your doctor.

Here, we will give you an overview of the melanoma treatment options, and answer some commonly asked questions about treating melanoma.

If you're looking for an experienced skin cancer doctor to give you treatment advice, book an appointment at one of our SunDoctors clinics. Diagnosing, preventing and treating skin cancer is what we do.

A brief overview of Melanoma - what is it and who can get it?

Melanoma can affect anyone at any age and can occur anywhere on the body. An increased risk of developing this disease is seen in people who have fair skin, light hair and eye colour, a family history of melanoma or who have had melanoma in the past.

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer of melanocytes – the cells that produce a dark protective pigment called melanin. Individual lesions may appear as a dark brown, black or multi-coloured growth with irregular borders that can become crusted and bleed.

These tumours can arise in or near a pre-existing mole or may appear without warning. Although not all melanomas are deadly, they may spread to other organs, making it essential to treat this skin cancer early.

Melanoma Diagnosis

First, you will need to find out if you have Melanoma and not some other type of skin cancer.

You may undergo other scans, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) scans, to determine the extent of the cancer cells and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

After sections of tissue from a biopsy of your skin are assessed under a microscope by a dermatopathologist and determined to be melanoma, your skin cancer doctor will discuss several treatment options with you.

Melanoma Treatment Options

Treatment of melanoma is designed according to several variables including location, the extent of spread and aggressiveness of the tumour as well as your general health.

Forms of treatment for melanoma include

  • Surgical excision
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Lymph node removal

Your doctor will help you to better understand these treatment options. However, here is a little more information about each type of melanoma treatment.

Surgical excision

Surgical excision is the primary treatment for early stage melanoma. The procedure involves removing the affected skin tissue, including a margin of healthy tissue around the tumour, to ensure that all cancer cells are removed.

The size and location of the tumour determine the extent of the surgical removal. In some cases, a sentinel lymph node biopsy may also be performed during surgery to determine if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. For melanoma, chemotherapy drugs can be given intravenously or topically, depending on the stage and location of the cancer.

Chemotherapy is typically used for advanced melanoma or when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. The drugs used in chemotherapy can cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. For melanoma treatment, radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments.

It's typically used for patients who cannot undergo surgery or as an adjuvant treatment to prevent the cancer from returning. Radiation therapy can cause side effects, such as fatigue, skin irritation, and hair loss, which vary depending on the location and dosage of the radiation.

Lymph node removal

Lymph node removal, also known as lymph node dissection, is a surgical procedure that involves removing lymph nodes near the affected area of the skin. This procedure is typically used to determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and to remove any cancerous cells in the lymph nodes.

Lymph node removal may also be recommended as a treatment option for melanoma that has spread to nearby lymph nodes. The procedure can cause side effects such as pain, swelling, and numbness in the affected area.

Common Questions about Melanoma Treatment Options

1 in 2 Australians will develop skin cancer at some point in life, most from exposure to UV radiation. Although melanoma accounts for only 4% of all skin cancers, it is responsible for approximately 70% of all deaths that arise from skin cancers. Melanoma develops on the skin of approximately 10,000 Australians annually, with an estimated 1,100 dying from melanoma every year.

Does the stage of melanoma influence my treatment options?

To treat melanoma, your options will depend on the stage of the cancer, location, and other factors such as overall health and medical history.

Early Stage Melanomas

Treatment options for early stage melanoma may include surgical removal of the affected tissue, including a wide local excision or a sentinel lymph node biopsy. Adjuvant therapy, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy drugs, may also be recommended to destroy any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Advanced Melanoma

For advanced melanoma and metastatic melanoma, targeted therapy or immunotherapy may be recommended to attack melanoma cells directly or boost the immune system cells and their ability to fight cancer. Clinical trials may also be available for patients who have exhausted other treatment options.

The key to successful melanoma treatment is early detection and diagnosis. By being vigilant about changes in the skin, practising sun safety, and seeking medical attention for any suspicious moles, you can increase your chances of detecting melanoma early and achieving the best possible outcome.

What is the most common treatment for melanoma?

The most common treatment for early stage melanoma is surgical excision, which involves removing the affected skin tissue along with a margin of healthy tissue surrounding the tumour.

For advanced melanoma patients, treatment may involve a combination of surgical removal, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy or immunotherapy drugs, depending on the extent and location of the cancer cells.

How long can you live with melanoma without treatment?

According to Better Health Victoria, 99% of Victorians survive at least 5 more years following a melanoma cancer diagnosis. This is a significant improvement from 1985, when the rate was 85%.

The prognosis is generally better for women than it is for men. The 5-year melanoma survival rate for women is 94%, while the same rate for men is 89%.

Prognosis will vary depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors such as age and overall health. In general, early detection and treatment of melanoma offer the best chance for a successful outcome.

Without treatment, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. That's why it's so important to seek medical attention, such as a consultation with a skin cancer doctor, if you notice any changes in your skin or the appearance of any suspicious moles or lesions.

How to protect yourself from Melanoma

Overexposure to sunlight, especially when it results in sunburn and blistering, is a major cause of melanoma. Thus, an important preventive measure to help reduce the risk of melanoma is sun avoidance, especially during peak sunlight hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Limit skin exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays by wearing sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats and protective, tightly woven clothing. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF-30+ on all exposed skin, including the lips, even on cloudy days. Reapply sunscreen frequently. Avoid tanning parlours and artificial tanning devices.

Inspect your entire body for any skin changes and routinely visit your doctor for a skin examination. Detecting melanoma early can be lifesaving, since this cancer may be curable in its early stages. Any irregularity in an existing or newly developed pigment skin lesion (asymmetry, uneven border, colour variability, diameter of more than 6mm, elevation or bleeding) could be a sign of melanoma and should be examined immediately by a doctor.

People with dark complexions can also develop melanoma, especially on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under the nails and in the mouth. Therefore, these areas of the body should be examined closely on a regular basis.

The ABCDEs of Melanoma Checks

When examining moles be sure to think of ABCDE.

Asymmetry - One half does not match the other half

Border irregularity - The edges are notched or ragged

Colour - Varied shades of tan, black and brown

Diameter - Greater than 6mm actual size

Evolving - A significant change in size, shape or shade of colour

Don't become a statistic

1 in 2 Australians will develop skin cancer at some point in life, most from exposure to UV radiation. Although melanoma accounts for only 4% of all skin cancers, it is responsible for approximately 70% of all deaths that arise from skin cancers. Melanoma develops on the skin of approximately 10,000 Australians annually, with an estimated 1,100 dying from melanoma every year.

Make skin checks a regular part of your health routine. If you've never had a skin check before, find a SunDoctors clinic near you and book one online or by calling us today. You don't need a referral, and our team of friendly doctors will explain everything that's involved to make it an easy and comfortable process. It only takes 15 minutes, and it could save your life.

View More Posts By Category