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Further investigation & treatments

If your doctor thinks there's a chance your melanoma could have spread from your skin to other parts of your body (called metastatic melanoma) you'll need to have more tests.

These tests are to help find out how far the melanoma has spread from its original site. This information is used to assign a stage to the melanoma. Stages range from zero to four.

Stage zero means the melanoma is very thin and hasn't spread, and stage four means it has spread to distant parts of your body (called distant metastasis). DermNet NZ gives more information about the stages of melanoma (near the bottom of the page).

The tests used to stage melanoma include blood tests, looking at the nearby lymph nodes (this is called sentinel node biopsy), and scans such as ultrasound and CT scans. You can read more about the tests that can be used to help with staging on the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand website.

Further treatment

There are several options for further treatment.

Lymph node dissection – armpit (axillary), groin or neck

Depending on the stage of melanoma you have, it may be necessary to remove all the lymph nodes in the surrounding area. Types of lymph node dissection operations include armpit (axillary), groin and neck.

Non-surgical treatments

If your cancer is more advanced, you may be referred to the oncology clinic to meet a cancer specialist. They may recommend additional non-surgical cancer treatments. These can include chemotherapy (drugs that kill cancer cells), immunotherapy (drugs that stimulate your own immune system to act against cancer cells) or radiotherapy (using radiation to kill cancer cells).

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Looking after myself after a diagnosis of melanoma

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Plastic Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed August 2018.

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Page reference: 87533

Review key: HIMEL-15455