Melanoma (including Sentinel node biopsy)

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the skin cells that produce pigmentation. It is a serious form of skin cancer and can spread rapidly to other parts of the body where it can cause harm and potentially be fatal. In order to prevent the spread of melanoma, the primary treatment is removal of the melanoma with a margin of normal skin (called a wide local excision) to prevent local recurrence.

In order to determine if the melanoma has spread further than your skin, you can consider a sentinel node biopsy. This is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the sentinel lymph node, which is the first lymph node that cancer is most likely to spread to. It is a moderatly invasive procedure that is performed under general anesthesia, and it is typically done in conjunction with the removal of the melanoma (wide local excision).

The procedure begins with the injection of a blue dye and a radioactive substance near the site of the melanoma. The dye and radioactive substance then travel through the lymphatic system to the sentinel node, which is identified with the help of a handheld device that detects the radioactivity.

Once the sentinel node is located, it is removed and sent to a laboratory for testing. If the sentinel node tests positive for cancer, it is an indication that the cancer has spread beyond the primary site and further treatment may be required.

However, there are some risks associated with a sentinel node biopsy. These include infection, bleeding, and nerve damage. There is also a risk that the sentinel node may not be identified or that it may be incorrectly identified, leading to a false negative result.

Overall, a sentinel node biopsy is an important tool in the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma. It provides doctors with critical information about the stage of the cancer and helps to guide the appropriate course of treatment.

If you have been diagnosed with melanoma, it is important to speak with a skin cancer expert like Mr Kumar about the options available to you, including a sentinel node biopsy. With early detection and proper treatment, the prognosis for melanoma is often very good.

Whilst this procedure is offered on the NHS, there are advantages to having this performed privately. If you have private health insurance most companies will cover you for the treatment. You can also self-fund the treatment.