- How is melanoma skin cancer treated?
- Types of surgery for melanoma skin cancer
- Chemotherapy for melanoma skin cancer
- Immunotherapy for melanoma skin cancer
- Targeted therapy for melanoma skin cancer
- Radiation therapy for melanoma skin cancer
- Clinical trials for melanoma skin cancer
- Complementary and alternative therapies for melanoma skin cancer
Chemotherapy for melanoma skin cancer
Chemotherapy (chemo) is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Usually the drugs are given into a vein or by mouth as a pill. Once the drugs enter the bloodstream, they spread throughout the body. Chemo is useful in treating cancer that has spread. Doctors give chemo in cycles, with each period of treatment followed by a pause for the body to rest. Each cycle usually lasts a few weeks.
Several types of chemo can be used to treat advanced melanoma. Chemo does not usually work as well for melanoma as it does for some other types of cancer, but it may relieve symptoms or help people with advanced disease live longer.
Using chemo drugs with one or more immunotherapy drugs may work better than using just one drug, but it’s not clear if this helps people live longer.
Isolated limb perfusion is a type of chemo sometimes used for treating melanomas on the arms or legs. This treatment separates the blood flow of the limb with cancer from the rest of the body for a short time. High doses of chemo are then put into an artery of the limb. This allows high doses to be given to the area of the tumor without exposing the whole body to it, which would cause severe side effects.
While chemo drugs kill cancer cells, they also damage some normal cells. This can lead to side effects. These side effects will depend on the type of drugs used, the amount taken, and the length of treatment. Short-term side effects might be:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased chance of infection (from too few white blood cell counts)
- Easy bruising or bleeding (from too few blood platelets)
- Tiredness (from too few red blood cells)
Most side effects go away once treatment is over. There are ways to lessen many of the side effects, so be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if you are having any of these problems.
Last Medical Review: 09/26/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013