What happens before the surgery?

Before you have surgery, the specialist will examine your lymph nodes. This is because the most common place for melanoma cells to spread to are the lymph nodes closest to the melanoma.

Your specialist will check whether they look or feel swollen. If the melanoma is on your leg, they will examine the lymph nodes behind your knee and in your groin. If it is on your chest, back or abdomen, they will check the lymph nodes in your groin, armpits, above the collarbones and in the neck.

Your specialist will suggest you have tests to check your lymph nodes if:

  • any of them are swollen
  • there is a possibility they may contain cancer cells.

Some people may be offered a test to check their lymph nodes even if they are not swollen. This test is done at the same time as the surgery. It is known as a sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Stage 1 melanomas rarely spread to the lymph nodes. This means you will not usually need tests to check them.

Back to Surgery explained

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.