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Melanoma & Skin Cancer Surgery

The skin is the commonest site of cancers occurring in both men and women in Australia.  Common forms of skin cancer include Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC).

Melanoma is a potentially deadly form of skin cancer arising from the melanocytes (pigment cells) of the deeper layers of the skin.  Australia has one of the highest rates of Melanoma in the world due to the high levels of ultraviolet light exposure, as well as the European skin type of much of the population.

Melanomas can arise from the skin in any location, but are most common on sun-exposed areas. 

Melanomas have the potential to spread to the surrounding skin, to lymph nodes and to other organs in the body.  

Surgery for Melanoma involves the complete removal of the tumour with a ‘margin’ of surrounding normal skin to prevent the melanoma from growing back.  If more skin is removed in this surgery than can be sutured closed, the ‘defect’ in the skin may need to be covered using surrounding tissue (flap repair) or a skin graft.

Depending on the Melanoma, surgery may be required to biopsy the lymph nodes that the melanoma may spread to.  This technique is known as sentinel lymph node biopsy.  It involves injection of a radioactive dye around the site of the Melanoma then mapping the lymph nodes that the tumour could spread to using a nuclear medicine scan.  The lymph nodes are then identified on the scan are then removed as a biopsy.  If the melanoma has spread to these lymph nodes on the biopsy, further surgery may be required to remove all of the lymph nodes in that location.

Dr Chambers specialises in surgery for Melanoma and other advanced skin cancers.  The following procedures may be required for treatment:

  • Wide excision of the Melanoma
  • Wider re-excision after previous removal of a Melanoma
  • Local flap repair (eg. using Keystone, advancement or rotation flaps)
  • Skin graft
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • Lymph node dissection

All patients with Melanoma have their cases discussed at the St Vincent’s Melanoma Multidisciplinary Team Meeting held every month at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre.