What can I expect after a diagnosis of Stage I melanoma?
Stage I melanoma treatment is usually straightforward. If the results confirm that it is Stage 1A melanoma, you will have a minor surgery to remove any tumour remaining after the biopsy.
This is known as a wide local excision.
Wide load excision: What to expect
- The melanoma is removed with minor surgery by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon
- It is sometimes carried out under local anaesthetic in a doctor’s surgery
- An area of skin of between 1cm to 2cm around where the melanoma is situated is also removed (known as a surgical margin)
- The surgical margin increases in size depending on how thick the tumour is
- Stitches will be used to close up the skin
- This type of small operation will leave a linear, or straight-line scar
- At sensitive sites, such as the face or hands, different options should be explained to you to suit your individual needs to minimise scarring
- Options to avoid scarring could include a local flap (nearby spare skin is moved around) or a skin graft (a piece of your skin is used as a dressing
See more detailed information on a wide local excision
Follow up appointments
After the removal of a Stage IA melanoma you should have an initial follow-up appointment, where you will be shown what to look out for in future and to address any questions or concerns that you may have. You may also have further appointments for the doctors to examine you.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
After the biopsy results, if your doctor thinks you have a Stage IB tumour, you may be offered a procedure called a sentinel lymph node biopsy to confirm if the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes. The ‘sentinel’ lymph node is the first one to receive drainage from a primary tumour, and the site where melanoma commonly spreads to first. This involves removing and examining the lymph node for the presence of cancer cells.
If this biopsy is ‘negative’ your melanoma will be now be considered as Stage IA. If your sentinel lymph node biopsy is positive, your melanoma will then be considered as a Stage III and you would be eligible for adjuvant treatment. An oncologist will discuss these treatments with you.
Note that a wide local excision will often be done at the same time as a sentinel lymph node biopsy.
If you don’t have a sentinel lymph node biopsy, your Stage IB melanoma will usually be seen every three months for three years and then every six months for another five years.
>See more detailed information on sentinel lymph node biopsy
Stage I further considerations
If you are diagnosed with Stage I melanoma you are unlikely to have further recurrence of your disease, and almost everyone is cured by their surgery.