Melanoma

Our experts provide complete diagnostic services, consultations, treatments and clinical trials for all stages of the disease.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin or the pigment that gives skin its color. Oncologists consider melanoma one of the most aggressive types of skin cancer.

More common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma Risk Factors

A common risk factor for melanoma and all others skin cancers includes exposure to ultraviolet light. This risk can stem from exposure to the sun or artificial sources, such as tanning beds. Exposure occurs over your lifetime. Other risk factors include:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Personal history of a prior skin cancer
  • Skin cancer in the family
  • High mole count or abnormal-looking moles (for melanoma)

Diagnosis

At IU Health, your physicians will diagnose melanoma using a skin biopsy. If they detect cancer and suspect it has spread, they will perform an additional biopsy from another area of your body. One or more of the following tools can help your physicians diagnose melanoma and other skin cancers:

  • Clinical exam. Looks for moles, birthmarks or other areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape or texture.
  • Blood testing. Measures certain substances in the blood that may indicate cancer or organ dysfunction.
  • Radiographic studies. Evaluate abnormalities with pictures of certain parts of the body. This includes technology such as computed tomography (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET)/CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or X-ray.
  • Sentinel node biopsy. Locates, removes and examines the sentinel lymph node(s), or the first lymph node(s) from which cancer cells likely spread.

Understanding Melanoma

More common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma Risk Factors

A common risk factor for melanoma and all others skin cancers includes exposure to ultraviolet light. This risk can stem from exposure to the sun or artificial sources, such as tanning beds. Exposure occurs over your lifetime. Other risk factors include:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Personal history of a prior skin cancer
  • Skin cancer in the family
  • High mole count or abnormal-looking moles (for melanoma)

Diagnosis

At IU Health, your physicians will diagnose melanoma using a skin biopsy. If they detect cancer and suspect it has spread, they will perform an additional biopsy from another area of your body. One or more of the following tools can help your physicians diagnose melanoma and other skin cancers:

  • Clinical exam. Looks for moles, birthmarks or other areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape or texture.
  • Blood testing. Measures certain substances in the blood that may indicate cancer or organ dysfunction.
  • Radiographic studies. Evaluate abnormalities with pictures of certain parts of the body. This includes technology such as computed tomography (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET)/CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or X-ray.
  • Sentinel node biopsy. Locates, removes and examines the sentinel lymph node(s), or the first lymph node(s) from which cancer cells likely spread.

At IU Health, your team of specialists will meet weekly to discuss your case and develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Your treatment options will include one or more of the following. It'll depend on the most current treatment, your stage of cancer and your individual needs:

  • Surgical excision. Most common treatment for melanoma. Removes the cancer plus a border of surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Radiotherapy. Uses energy beams to kill cancer cells. This may reduce the risk of recurrence at a particular site and may reduce pain or bleeding.
  • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). Precisely directs a large dose of radiation to a tumor without affecting normal tissue.
  • Gamma-knife radiosurgery. Uses specialized equipment aimed at a tumor from many angles in a single treatment.
  • Systemic therapies. Medicines used for more advanced melanoma work in different ways to kill or control cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapies. Damage various parts of the cancer cell in an effort to destroy them.
  • Immunotherapies program. Your immune system fights the cancer.
  • Molecularly targeted therapies. Attack various pathways in cancer cells to stop their functioning.

If you have melanoma, your physicians will see you in consultation during a weekly clinic with experts in several disciplines.

At IU Health Simon Cancer Center, your physicians lead cancer care discoveries. This gives you access to highly skilled doctors and advanced diagnostic and treatment options. You will also benefit from clinical trials and compassionate support through the CompleteLife Program. The CompleteLife Program staff care for your emotional, mental, social and spiritual needs.

You will likely need long-term follow-up care for melanoma and other advanced skin cancers.

Melanoma Research

Physicians at IU Health Simon Cancer Center lead research to improve cancer diagnosis techniques and treatments. Learn more about cancer research at IU Health and see if you qualify to participate in advanced clinical trials.

What are Treatment Options for Melanoma?

At IU Health, your team of specialists will meet weekly to discuss your case and develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.

Your treatment options will include one or more of the following. It'll depend on the most current treatment, your stage of cancer and your individual needs:

  • Surgical excision. Most common treatment for melanoma. Removes the cancer plus a border of surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Radiotherapy. Uses energy beams to kill cancer cells. This may reduce the risk of recurrence at a particular site and may reduce pain or bleeding.
  • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). Precisely directs a large dose of radiation to a tumor without affecting normal tissue.
  • Gamma-knife radiosurgery. Uses specialized equipment aimed at a tumor from many angles in a single treatment.
  • Systemic therapies. Medicines used for more advanced melanoma work in different ways to kill or control cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapies. Damage various parts of the cancer cell in an effort to destroy them.
  • Immunotherapies program. Your immune system fights the cancer.
  • Molecularly targeted therapies. Attack various pathways in cancer cells to stop their functioning.

If you have melanoma, your physicians will see you in consultation during a weekly clinic with experts in several disciplines.

At IU Health Simon Cancer Center, your physicians lead cancer care discoveries. This gives you access to highly skilled doctors and advanced diagnostic and treatment options. You will also benefit from clinical trials and compassionate support through the CompleteLife Program. The CompleteLife Program staff care for your emotional, mental, social and spiritual needs.

You will likely need long-term follow-up care for melanoma and other advanced skin cancers.

Melanoma Research

Physicians at IU Health Simon Cancer Center lead research to improve cancer diagnosis techniques and treatments. Learn more about cancer research at IU Health and see if you qualify to participate in advanced clinical trials.

Patient Stories for Melanoma

American Cancer Society

This website provides information about funding and conducting cancer research, patient support, and prevention.

Medline Plus

The National Institutes of Health provide this website for patients and their families and friends. Produced by the National Library of Medicine, it provides information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues.

Skin Cancer Foundation

The Skin Cancer Foundation, an international organization, devotes itself to education, prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment of the world’s most common cancer.

Resources

American Cancer Society

This website provides information about funding and conducting cancer research, patient support, and prevention.

Medline Plus

The National Institutes of Health provide this website for patients and their families and friends. Produced by the National Library of Medicine, it provides information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues.

Skin Cancer Foundation

The Skin Cancer Foundation, an international organization, devotes itself to education, prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment of the world’s most common cancer.