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Advances in surgery are improving survival for people with melanoma


Mayo Clinic Staff | (TNS) Mayo Clinic News Network

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 97,610 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2023, making up 5% of all new cancer diagnoses. Fortunately, screening and treatment have improved, allowing care teams to catch melanoma earlier when it’s easier to treat. As a result, the number of people who survive the disease has steadily increased.

Tina Hieken, M.D., a Mayo Clinic surgical oncologist with a particular interest in melanoma, answers questions about treatment and advances in surgery that are helping to improve outcomes for people diagnosed with the disease:

Who is diagnosed with early-stage melanoma?

We have seen a shift over the last several decades to an increase in people being diagnosed with earlier-stage disease, along with an overall increase in the incidence of melanoma. Melanoma has historically been one of the most rapidly increasing cancers, but this has varied by age. In adults age 50 and older, rates continue to grow in women by about 1% a year but have stabilized in men. As the population ages, the average age at diagnosis of melanoma is closer to age 60; however, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in adults younger than 30.

What are some important considerations in treating early-stage melanoma?

Finding melanoma at its earliest stage allows us to treat the lesion with surgery — without using systemic therapies that reach and affect cells throughout the body, creating potential toxicities and side effects. But even the earliest stage of the disease requires a specialized, multidisciplinary care team to ensure the patient has the best treatment options, as melanoma care is evolving rapidly. The melanoma care team at Mayo Clinic includes surgical oncologistsmedical oncologistsradiation oncologistsdermatologistsradiologists and pathologists. We work together and with other scientists to bring research advancements into care as quickly as possible.

How might surgery help a patient with later-stage melanoma?

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