Electrochemotherapy for recurrent melanoma

Electrochemotherapy is a new treatment. It is used to treat cancers affecting the skin. It can be used to help control symptoms when other treatments are no longer working.

Electrochemotherapy is a combination of chemotherapy and a small electrical current. A low dose of chemotherapy is injected into the tumour or into a vein (intravenously). An electrical pulse is then given directly to the cancer cells using an electrode. The electrical pulse helps the chemotherapy get into the cancer cells. Once inside the cancer cells, the chemotherapy destroys them.

If you are having an injection into a tumour, a local anaesthetic will be used to numb the area first. Sometimes a general anaesthetic is used if lots of tumours are being treated at the same time. Treatment takes between 10 and 60 minutes. You can usually have it as an outpatient, but it may involve an overnight stay. The treatment can sometimes be repeated.

Because it is a new treatment and still experimental, it is not yet widely available. Your doctor or specialist nurse will be able to give you more information about this treatment if it is suitable for you.

Side effects of electrochemotherapy

The side effects are usually mild.

Some people get pain in the area where the electrode touches the skin. This can last for a few days. Tell your doctor or specialist nurse if you have any pain. They can give you painkillers.

During the treatment, you may get muscle contractions. These can be uncomfortable. Tell your doctor if this happens. Slightly changing the way the treatment is given can help. The contractions will stop after the treatment is finished.

Other side effects include redness and swelling in the treated area, a rash and scarring. The chemotherapy may cause mild sickness (nausea).

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