Melanoma is a dangerous form of skin cancer that is deadly when not treated early. The health risks for developing melanoma are heightened with an exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or from using tanning beds. Melanoma can be surgically removed when detected in its earliest stages. Once a melanoma tumor advances, more advanced treatments are needed. The best treatment option is dependent on the extent of spread and stage of cancer, the patient’s general health, and personal preferences. Here we’ll review several of the most well-known treatment options for melanoma including surgery, immunotherapy and even alternative treatment options.
Top 4 Melanoma Treatment Options:
- Immunotherapy and targeted therapy
- Nutrition therapy
- Alternative treatments
Surgery for melanoma skin cancer
Surgery is the primary treatment for a majority of melanomas, usually in the initial stages. When melanoma is diagnosed by skin biopsy, extensive surgery is generally required to ensure that the complete removal of cancerous tissue, and is successful for most thin melanomas. Anesthesia is injected locally into the area to numb it prior to surgery. The tumor is then excised out, along with a nominal amount of healthy skin on the edges, referred to as the “margin,” and the adjoining tissue is stitched up, leaving a scar. The removed tissue undergoes a view under a microscope to make sure there is no remaining cancer cells.
- More than just the visible tumor is removed.
- Radiation therapy may also be administered.
- Surgery can result in a full cure.
Immunotherapy and targeted therapy
Immunotherapy involves using medications for stimulating the patient’s own immune system for effective targeting and destruction of cancer cells. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a new class of promising drugs in the treatment of advanced stage melanomas that target checkpoint proteins. A vital function of the immune system is its ability to prevent attack on its own healthy cells in the body. “Checkpoints”, which are proteins on immune cells require a switch to initiate an immune response, and are banked on by melanoma cells to avoid an immune system attack. Vemurafenib (Zelboraf), dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist) are examples of targeted therapy drugs for the treatment of advanced stage melanoma, effective if the cancerous cells have a certain type of genetic mutation.
- Immunotherapy is newer.
- The FDA has approved several immunotherapy drugs.
- Immunotherapy drugs trigger the body to attack melanoma cells.
Adopting healthy eating and physical exercise habits can be an important step in battling any kind of cancer by providing the body with the required strength and reducing fatigue from standard treatments, maintain a healthy body weight and prevent infection. It curbs unwanted side effects of certain medications or disease, while still maintaining physical strength. Scientific studies have revealed that consumption of foods rich in antioxidants (highly reactive chemical species) or antioxidant supplements, spices derived from plants, fats and proteins and flavonoids can help prevent cancer, by neutralizing free radicals.
- Healthy dieting improves overall patient well-being.
- Diet changes may be needed with other treatment options.
- Healthy dieting may prevent cancer.
Naturopathic medicine involves natural therapies from many healing traditions, ranging from herbal supplements to massage and acupuncture. Medicines derived from plants can be ingested in the form of teas or capsules. Green tea has been touted for its advantages to human health. It is replete with strong antioxidants, and can prevent the formation of skin tumors. Acupuncture and acupressure can help reducing pain from cancer by releasing blocked energy in the body, rather than as a treatment option by itself. Acupuncture achieves this by the insertion of needles at strategic points throughout the body. Acupressure applies pressure to targeted points on the body. Massage and physical therapy can help manage chronic pain from melanoma. The spread of melanoma to the lymphatic system can benefit from strength training and stretching from physical therapy. Hydrotherapy and mind-body therapy can also help cancer patients to alleviate symptoms.
- Not FDA approved.
- Alternative treatments only help to alleviate pain and other symptoms.
- Many forms of alternative treatment.
Prevention is the best defense against melanoma. And for the best chances of a cure, melanoma must be detected and removed in its early stages. Other treatments can help patients whose melanoma has spread, but the survival rates of this condition plummet when tumors reach advanced stages. Talk to your doctor to learn more about these treatment options.