Melanoma Treatment

Depending on the particular stage of your melanoma diagnosis, there may be several treatment options available to you. Each case is unique - your doctor will want to review your full pathology report and your medical history with you when discussing treatment to determine the best course of action. And, if you are newly diagnosed with melanoma, learning about treatment options is of the utmost importance. Up-to-date recordings on a variety of melanoma treatments can be found on our Educational Recordings page.

There are many centers around the United States that specialize in diagnosing and treating melanoma. Not sure where to go? Visit the MRF’s Treatment Center Finder to help finding the right place for you.

Melanoma Treatment Options

These are examples of they types of treatment available for melanoma. Based on your personal history, pathology report, and stage at diagnosis, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:


Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for early stage melanoma and for the resection of an isolated metastatic melanoma site. There are several different types of surgeries that are regularly performed to treat melanoma.


Radiation therapy uses high energy rays, like x-rays, to kill cancer cells. Although radiation is not an overly common melanoma treatment option, it is most often used as a symptom-relieving therapy in patients whose melanoma has spread to the brain or bones.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies to test promising new or experimental cancer treatments. There are hundreds of clinical trials happening at any given time, and most experts agree that for a late-stage diagnosis, clinical trials are the best treatment option. You can also visit our Clinical Trial Finder to learn about clinical trials that are available.


Immunotherapy is a type of systemic therapy used in the treatment of melanoma at high risk for recurrence and metastases. The following immunotherapies are approved by the FDA for the treatment of melanoma: Imlygic (T-VEC), Yervoy + OpdivoOpdivo (nivolumab), Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Yervoy (ipilimumab), Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and Interferon alpha 2-b.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of therapy where drugs (or other substances) “target” the abnormal aspects of tumor cells without harming normal cells. Several targeted therapies have been approved for use in treating various cancers, and this approach is now being evaluated in melanoma. You can also use a Targeted Therapy Finder to learn about possible treatment options for you. The following targeted therapies are approved by the FDA for the treatment of melanoma that is positive for the BRAF mutation: Zelboraf + Cotellic (Cobimetinib) , Tafinlar + Mekinist, Tafinlar (dabrafenib), Mekinist (trametinib) and Zelboraf (vemurafenib). 


Chemotherapy is a type of systemic therapy intended to destroy melanoma cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy has shown limited success in the treatment of melanoma. Dacarbazine (DTIC) is FDA-approved for Stage IV (metastatic) melanoma. 

Side Effects of Treatment

As with any cancer treatment, you or your loved one may experience side effects from the treatment regiment. With that in mind, it is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to treatment and experiences side effects in different ways. It is important that all side effects be reported to your treatment team AS SOON AS YOU BEGIN EXPERIENCING THEM. 

The most common side effects of melanoma treatment include, but are not limited to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vitiligo (loss of pigment)
  • Skin rash
  • Lymphedema
  • Thyroid issues
  • Colitis
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain