A dermatologist will take a skin biopsy and examine the sample under a microscope or send it to a laboratory for more analysis before considering melanoma removal. Biopsies may involve complete melanoma removal along with a bit of normal-looking skin or partial melanoma removal for a suspicious area or only the most irregular part of a large mole or growth.
A sentinel lymph node biopsy, x-rays, blood work, and a CT scan may also be done to determine if cancerous cells have spread. Melanoma removal options depend on the depth of the lesion and whether the cancer has spread near the lymph nodes or beyond.
Complete melanoma removal is possible in the disease’s early stages when the skin is taken for a biopsy. A dermatologist will sometimes perform an in-office excision to remove all cancer cells and a margin of normal-looking skin around them. The skin is numbed before the melanoma removal procedure.
Other melanoma removal options are used for cancerous growths that have grown deeper into the skin or have spread. These may be treated with chemotherapy (medicine that kills cancerous and some normal cells), immunotherapy (to assist the patient’s immune system in destroying the cancer), a lymphadenectomy (removal of affected lymph nodes), radiation therapy (to kill cancerous and some normal cells), and targeted therapy (drugs that reduce the cancer temporarily).