Treatment for stage 1 and 2 melanoma
This page tells you about treatment for stage 1 and 2 melanoma skin cancer. There is information about
Stage 1 and 2 melanoma
Stage 1 and 2 melanomas are sometimes called localised melanomas. The melanoma cells have not spread to the lymph nodes or to anywhere else in the body.
Surgery to remove stage 1 and 2 melanomas
Doctors usually diagnose melanoma by removing an abnormal mole together with a small area of surrounding skin. You then have a second operation to remove a larger area of healthy tissue around where the melanoma was. This is called a wide local excision.
If you have a stage 1A melanoma and your doctors are sure that they removed enough tissue, this is all the treatment you need.
If you have stage 1B or stage 2 melanoma, your doctor will talk to you about a test to see if there are melanoma cells in nearby lymph glands. You usually have this test at the same time as the wide local excision.
What happens after treatment
You will need to have follow up appointments. Between appointments, you need to contact your specialist to arrange an extra check up if you notice
- Any changes in other moles
- Dark, mole like spots appearing near where your mole was removed
- Any enlarged glands (lymph nodes) close to where you had the mole removed
Once you have been diagnosed with a melanoma, you need to take care to protect your skin from the sun. This is very important because your risk of developing another melanoma is higher than average.
View and print the quick guide for treating early melanoma.
Doctors usually diagnose melanoma by removing an abnormal mole during an operation. You have this operation under local anaesthetic. The doctor sends the tissue to the laboratory to check if it is melanoma, and how deep it is.
The depth of the melanoma in the skin affects how likely it is to come back and whether it may spread. The doctors use this information to diagnose what stage melanoma you have.
If it is melanoma, you have a second operation to remove a larger area of healthy tissue around where the melanoma was. Removing the surrounding tissue is called a wide local excision. How much tissue the surgeon removes depends on how thick your melanoma is. The doctor can tell you more about this.
In the latest guidelines, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that
- For stage 1 melanoma; the surgeon removes at least 1 cm of tissue around the melanoma
- For stage 2 melanoma, the surgeon removes at least 2 cm of tissue around the melanoma
You usually have this operation under a local anaesthetic. If you have stage 1A melanoma and your doctors are sure that they removed enough tissue, this is all the treatment you need.
If you have stage 1B or stage 2 melanoma your doctor may offer you a test to check your lymph nodes. You can choose whether to have this test. The test is called a sentinel lymph node biopsy and you usually have it under a general anaesthetic.
Read more about surgery for melanoma and about sentinel node biopsy. And read the melanoma assessment and management guidelines by NICE.
As long as the doctors are sure they have removed enough tissue, you will not need any further treatment.
Your doctor or nurse will show you what signs to look out for that would tell you if your melanoma has come back. These include
• Changes in other moles
• Dark, mole like, spots appearing near where your melanoma was removed
• Enlarged glands (lymph nodes) close to where you had the melanoma removed
If you notice any of these changes, contact your specialist or nurse to arrange an appointment to go back to the clinic.
You will have follow up appointments in the outpatient clinic. How often you go, and for how long, will depend on the stage of your melanoma.
Read more about follow up for melanoma.
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