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Electrochemotherapy uses chemotherapy (usually bleomycin given intravenously via a drip) and a small electrical current to treat the melanoma. The chemotherapy itself is too big to get inside the melanoma cells, so the electric current is needed to open the cell gates (similar to house electric gates, needing a switch to open them).

Electrochemotherapy may be used to treat some melanomas that have spread to the skin. You will either have the treatment with a general anaesthetic (whilst you are asleep) or with a local anaesthetic to numb the area.

Electrochemotherapy is not offered as a treatment in all hospitals that treat melanoma and therefore you may have to travel to another hospital to have treatment.

Possible side effects

The dose of the chemotherapy is lower than is used for chemotherapy treatment in other cancers and therefore the side effects relating to the chemotherapy are less likely.  

The main side effect is pain in the area where the electrode touches the skin. It is usually mild and may last for a couple of days. You can be given painkillers if you need them.

Muscle contractions

Some people have muscle contractions during the treatment. If this is uncomfortable, your doctor may be able to modify how the treatment is being given.

Feeling sick

This is usually mild.

Changes in skin colour

You may notice a change in the skin colour where you have had treatment. This usually fades with time, but can be permanent for some people.

Skin changes

It isnt common, however, you may get an ulcer where you have had the treatment. If this occurs, the area will require a dressing until it heals.

Feeling breathless

a rare side effect of bleomycin, particularly as the dose is low.

If you have any worries or concerns, please contact your medical team or call our:

Melanoma Helpline on 0808 801 0777

Questions you may have

  • Is electrochemotherapy a treatment option for me?
  • Where is the nearest hospital that offers this treatment?
  • How long is the procedure and how long will I likely be in hospital?
  • How will I know if the treatment has been successful?