Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 2 million people are treated annually for two types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These cancers are categorized as nonmelanoma skin cancers — along with other rarer types including keratoacanthoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, cutaneous (skin) lymphomas, Kaposi sarcoma, skin adnexal tumors and sarcomas — and are rarely life-threatening, especially if they are diagnosed early.
A third type of skin cancer, melanoma, is one of the most dangerous and the number of new cases diagnosed each year is on the rise. Skin cancer is almost always curable when caught and treated early. That’s why it is critical to see a physician at the first sign of any abnormality in your skin. The treatment of skin cancer depends on the type and extent of the disease, but surgery is the standard treatment for melanoma.
Melanoma can grow quickly and has the ability to spread to any organ. Some melanomas grow radially on the skin’s surface (meaning they are growing outward, or horizontally, across the skin). Others spread vertically, deep into the skin’s layers. Early detection is especially important because treatment success is directly related to the depth of invasion into the skin.
Melanomas can occur on any part of the body. In men, they tend to be on the trunk while women are more likely to have them on the arms and legs. Most melanomas are black or brown in color, but they may also be skin-colored, pink, red or purple.
Experts in Cleveland Clinic’s Melanoma Program treat melanoma by completely removing the tumor while saving as much healthy skin as possible. The multidisciplinary program is a joint program of the Dermatology & Plastic Surgery, Taussig Cancer, Genomic Medicine, Pathology and Lab Medicine, and the Lerner Research institutes. It provides patients with access to a team of highly skilled dermatologists, plastic surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists as well as specialty nurses, dietitians, physical therapists and social workers. This coordinated team is dedicated to providing patients with the highest level of convenience and best outcomes possible.
Make An Appointment
Our friendly staff of Advanced Practice Nurses and Coordinators have years of experience in addressing the cancer-related concerns of patients, non-patients, caregivers, and even physicians. We can also help you to schedule an appointment with one of our cancer specialists. Call the Cancer Answer Line at 866.223.8100.
At Cleveland Clinic’s Melanoma Program, the multidisciplinary team of pathologists, dermatologists, surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, as well as others works together to develop the optimal treatment plan for each patient. This means that in addition to recommending a treatment most likely to result in a cure, they consider the option that will have the least effect on important body functions and appearance.
As a result, with only a single appointment, patients not only get the highest standard of care but members of a team that are highly involved in all areas of research for melanoma. This means state-of-the-art treatments, bringing hope to those who previously had no treatment options for their cancers.
Outcomes of melanoma patients at Cleveland Clinic's Melanoma Program compare favorably with data published nationally, and in some stages patients were found to have a better survival rate than that documented in multicenter studies.
We also offer patients reconstructive surgery options for those with large or complex melanoma removals.
Learn more about our Reconstructive Surgery services
- Brian Gastman, MD
Co-Director, Melanoma Program
Director of Melanoma Surgery
Plastic Surgery & Otolaryngology
- Claudia Marcela Diaz, PhD
Co-director, Melanoma Program
Director of Melanoma Laboratory Research
Immunology, Lerner Research Institute
- Ernest Borden, MD
Consultant to Melanoma program
The stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis is a primary factor in determining the treatment. Surgery is used to treat many types of skin cancer and is a standard treatment for melanoma.
If the melanoma is in an early stage, it may be removed during the biopsy or through surgery that removes the cancer along with some healthy-looking skin around it. In some cases, this is the only treatment that is needed.
In cases where the melanoma has spread beyond the skin to the neighboring lymph nodes or beyond, additional treatments may be needed. These could include:
If melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes, this surgery removes the affected nodes.
Removal of single isolated deposits of melanoma from organs.
This uses drugs to kill the cancer cells. Historically, chemotherapy was used to treat metastatic or stage IV melanoma, but is now considered for third line therapy.
- Radiation therapy
This uses X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
- Biological therapy
Also called immunotherapy, this treatment helps the patient’s immune system fight the cancer.
- Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy drugs are technically considered chemotherapy but are a separate class that interferes with the cancers internal growth pathway. Clinical Trials and Research (tab) Cancer clinical trials, also called research studies, test many types of treatments such as new drugs, new surgical techniques or radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods. The goal of the research is to find better ways to treat cancer.
- Mohs Surgery
Removes skin cancer while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible, critical in carcinomas near the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet and genitals.
In clinical trials, patients receive treatment and doctors carry out research on how the treatment affects patients. A person’s progress is closely monitored during the trial. Once the treatment portion of the trial has been completed, patients may continue to be followed in order to gather information regarding specific endpoints. These endpoints are defined prior to the study being started and may include time for disease progression and/or overall survival.
Cleveland Clinic welcomes the opportunity to partner with you in caring for your patients. Our dedicated Referring Physician team is available around-the-clock and committed to serving you and your patients.
Please contact our Referring Physician Hotline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for all your needs, by calling 855.REFER.123 (855.733.3712).
Contact the Referring Physician Hotline to obtain information on our clinical specialists and services; schedule and confirm patient appointments; receive assistance in the resolution of any service-related issues; and connect with Cleveland Clinic specialists.
When contacting us to schedule your patients, please have the following information readily available:
- Patient demographic information
- Diagnosis/Reason for visit
- Any special needs that will require facilitation once the patient arrives
- Patient insurance information, if available
We will work with your patient to complete the registration process and to schedule an appointment at the patient's convenience. You will be notified once the appointment is scheduled.
To contact our Melanoma Program specialists, call 866.223.8100.
Cleveland Clinic surgical dermatologist Dr. Philip Bailin discusses the new handheld device for detecting dangerous skin lesions such as melanoma.
Cleveland Clinic names this new FDA-approved handheld device one of its 2012 medical innovations. The scanner allows dermatologists to scan the skin for dangerous lesions, detecting 98% of melanomas in clinical trials.
What looked like a mole was actually melanoma.
Dr. Brian Gastman discusses the importance of melanoma awareness and shares the story of a young patient who was told she had five years left to live in a Channel 3 News interview.
MOHs surgery completely removes most skin cancers.
Keep yourself safe when out in the sun.
Melanoma & Skin Disease Organizations
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To schedule an appointment with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon,
contact the Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute at 216.444.5725
(or toll-free 1.800.223.2273, ext. 45725).
To arrange a same-day visit, call 216.444.7000