Melanoma is a cancer of pigmented cells in the skin. Although it is not the most common skin cancer diagnosed in Australia, it is the most serious. Queensland has the highest rate of melanoma in the world. A melanoma that is not treated early can spread to other parts of the body and become life threatening.
If a melanoma is at a very early stage and the pathologist reports that it has been successfully removed by biopsy, no further treatment may be necessary. However, if only a small part of the tumour was taken for testing, or if the doctor feels that not enough tissue was removed during the biopsy a further operation will be necessary.
The doctor will remove the melanoma by cutting around it along with a margin of healthy skin to improve the likelihood that all of the cancer has been removed. Once the cancer is removed, the remaining skin can be gently pulled together for stitching or if a lot of skin is removed, the doctor may have to fashion a skin graft or local flap of skin to cover the defect. the doctor will discuss whether a skin graft or flap is needed and whether or not it needs to be performed under a general anaesthetic.
The doctor will also perform sentinel node biopsy if deemed appropriate and this can be discussed further at time of consultation.