Typically, the first approach to treating melanoma is surgery. A surgical oncologist will perform the surgery; this is a physician who studied to be a cancer surgeon. Patients have better outcomes when a surgical oncologist performs their cancer surgery.
Our physicians are leaders in the surgical treatment of patients with advanced melanoma. Among the innovative approaches employed by our team of specialists are sentinel lymph node biopsies and minimally invasive isolated limb infusion techniques for patients with recurrent extremity melanoma.
Advanced Surgical Treatments for Melanoma Patients
At Wake Forest Baptist, we have a history of excellence and advancement in our melanoma program. Wake Forest Baptist surgical oncologists were the first in the region to start using sentinel lymph node mapping techniques to see if the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsies for Melanoma
The sentinel lymph node is the lymph node most likely to be affected by cancer cells travelling through the lymphatic system. Your surgeon can determine this sentinel lymph node by using a mapping procedure. Knowing which lymph nodes are affected can help determine how many to remove.
There are 2 ways to map the sentinel lymph node—using a radioisotope or blue dye. During the procedure, your surgeon will follow the path of the radioisotope or blue dye into your lymph nodes and determine which ones are affected. If there is cancer found in the affected lymph nodes, your surgeon will probably perform a lymph node dissection, to remove any affected lymph nodes. Your surgeon will discuss the best procedure for you, as well as what you should expect for post-recovery.
Perfusion/Infusion Treatment for Melanoma
For melanomas recurring in the limbs, there are advanced, targeted chemotherapy techniques that focus only on treating the affected areas with localized chemotherapy infusions. In this highly effective, short-duration procedure, a catheter or small tube is placed into the blood vessels to and from the affected extremity and a tourniquet is placed adjacent to the lesions to protect the rest of the body. High-dose chemotherapy is then infused in a closed circuit beyond the tourniquet to avoid the chemotherapy spreading to the rest of the body. Most patients can go home the day after the procedure.