Treatment for melanoma skin cancer

Melanoma skin cancer can often be treated. The treatment you have will depend on:

Surgery is the main treatment for melanoma. Radiotherapy, medicines and chemotherapy are also sometimes used.

The specialist care team looking after you will:

You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments. Depending on the stage of your melanoma, you may have tests and scans.

If you have any symptoms or side effects you're worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.


Surgery is the main treatment for melanoma, especially if it's found early.

You may also need surgery if the melanoma has spread to other areas of your body or if it has come back again after being removed.

Several types of surgery can be used to treat melanoma. For example, you may have surgery to remove:

If the melanoma is in a visible area, such as on your face, a plastic surgeon may carry out the surgery to make sure the end result looks as good as possible.

If a large area of skin is removed, skin may need to be taken from another part of your body and used to cover the area where the melanoma was. This is known as a skin graft.


Find out more


Radiotherapy is sometimes used to reduce the size of large melanomas and help control and relieve your symptoms.

You may have 1 or several sessions of radiotherapy. The amount needed depends on the area of your body being treated and if you're also having other types of treatment.

Targeted medicines and immunotherapy

Targeted medicines aim to stop the cancer growing.

Immunotherapy medicines help your immune system find and kill the cancer cells.

Targeted medicines or immunotherapy are sometimes used to treat melanomas that:

A sample of the melanoma is usually tested before having targeted medicines. This is to check for changes in certain genes and help doctors decide if this type of treatment is likely to work.


Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells.

It's sometimes used to treat advanced melanoma (where it's spread to another part of the body).

Chemotherapy does not work as well for melanoma as other treatments like targeted medicines and immunotherapy. But it might be used if you're unable to have other treatments.

What happens if you've been told your cancer cannot be cured

If you've been diagnosed with advanced melanoma, it might be very hard to treat. It may not be possible to cure the cancer.

In this situation, the aim of your treatment will be to limit the cancer and its symptoms, and help you live longer.

Finding out the cancer cannot be cured can be very hard news to take in.

You'll be referred to a special team of doctors and nurses called the palliative care team or symptom control team.

They'll work with you to help manage your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable.

The clinical nurse specialist or palliative care team can also help you and your loved ones get any support you need.


Find out more

Page last reviewed: 7 February 2020
Next review due: 7 February 2023