Print this topic

HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

How is melanoma treated?

Melanomas are always removed. This is called excision. When the melanoma (also called a lesion) is removed, it is sent away for testing.

Excision by a GP

melanoma examMany GPs are experienced in removing skin lesions, so your own doctor might be able to do the excision. If your doctor is not trained in removing skin lesions, or thinks your lesion is more complicated, they might refer you to either the Grey Base Hospital Minor Surgery Clinic, or a visiting plastic surgeon's outpatient clinic. If the excision confirms a melanoma then you are likely to be referred to a plastic surgeon. They will remove more tissue around the melanoma – this is called a wide local excision.

The Melanoma Foundation website has more information about excisions and treatment.

The cost of excision varies between doctors, and with the type and size of the lesion. You may be eligible for a subsidy to help you pay for the excision. Talk to your general practice team about this.

Excision by a plastic surgeon

If your melanoma is more complicated, your GP will refer you to either the Grey Base Hospital Minor Surgery Clinic or the visiting plastic surgeon's outpatient clinic to discuss any further treatment you might need.

You are likely to need an area of tissue around the melanoma removed – this is called a wide local excision. Removing a larger amount of normal skin around the melanoma reduces the chances of it coming back.

The size and type of excision you need depends on what type of melanoma you have, where it is, and how deep it has grown. There are different ways to surgically treat melanoma. You will need to talk to your plastic surgeon about the best way to remove yours. You may want to ask them to show you on a diagram how they will do the surgery, and what scars they expect.

Melanomas are usually removed under local anaesthetic injection, which numbs the area that will be operated on. However, sometimes a general anaesthetic is needed, which puts you to sleep. A few people need more complicated reconstructive surgery as part of their cancer treatment.

Your procedure or operation will be carried out by a specially trained doctor at the Grey Base Hospital Minor Surgery Clinic or by a visiting plastic surgeon at Grey Base Hospital.

If your melanoma is large or spreading across your skin then your surgeon may need to cut out a larger amount of skin. If the remaining skin cannot be pulled together and stitched then you may need a skin graft – taking skin from another part of your body to put over where the melanoma has been removed from. You can read more about skin grafts.

On the next page: Further investigations and treatments

Information provided by the Canterbury DHB. Adapted by the West Coast DHB. Last reviewed December 2016


See also:

Risks and complications of skin surgery

Having an anaesthetic

Discharge and wound care advice after your skin surgery

Page reference: 190401

Review key: HIMEL-15455