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Resource Library: Melanoma

Malignant melanoma is a tumor that arises from melanocytes (pigmented cells of the skin) and send out microscopic finger-like projections of tumor cells into the normal appearing tissue surrounding the mass. For this reason, surgical excision must be very wide in order to obtain margins that are free of tumor cells. Even with aggressive surgery, it is possible that there are still malignant cells in the area. Melanomas tend to spread (metastasize) while the tumors are still small, this occurs in 50% of cases.

The treatment of choice for malignant melanomas is surgical resection followed by chemotherapy when indicated. Overall, for all tumors presented, we expect a median survival time of 4 to 10 months. If there is metastatic disease, the prognosis if less favorable. If no metastatic disease is present, median survival times greater than 17 months can be expected. Other good prognostic factors include; low stage of disease, no tumor recurrence, surgery and mandibular location.

Surgery is the treatment of choice for melanomas. If the tumor is small and can be removed in its entirety, this is considered definitive treatment of local disease.

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