Treatment overview for melanoma
If the results of your excision biopsy confirm that you have a melanoma, you may be seen by two or more specialists who work as part of a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
This video provides an overview of melanoma and how it's treated.
To talk to someone about your questions and concerns about cancer, you can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00
The information in this video was correct as of 1 October 2013.
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The MDT includes:
skin cancer nurse specialists
oncologists (doctors who specialise in treating cancer).
The MDT will take a number of factors into account when advising you on the best treatment for your melanoma. They will consider a number of things, such as your general health, the stage of the melanoma and where it is on your body.
Most people diagnosed with melanoma will have surgery after their mole has been removed. This surgery is known as a wide local excision. It’s done to make sure that all the melanoma cells in the area where the mole was have been removed. This reduces the chance of the melanoma coming back. If your melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes, you will have further surgery to remove them. This is called a lymph node dissection.
Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment. No medical treatment can be given without your consent. Before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:
the type and extent of the treatment
its advantages and disadvantages
any significant risks or side effects
any other treatments that may be available.
If you don’t understand what you’ve been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again.
It’s a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.
People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it’s important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.
You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can’t make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.
You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don’t have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don’t have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.
Your multidisciplinary team (MDT) uses national treatment guidelines to decide the most suitable treatment for you. Even so, you may want another medical opinion. If you feel it will be helpful, you can ask either your specialist or GP to refer you to another specialist for a second opinion.
Getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment, so you and your doctor need to be confident that it will give you useful information. If you do go for a second opinion, it may be a good idea to take a relative or friend with you. Have a list of questions ready, so that you can make sure your concerns are covered during the discussion.
Find out why you might want to get to get a second opinion and what you could do if you decide this could help.