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Melanoma and Merkel Cell Carcinomas

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Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers. It is more serious and more likely to grow and spread if not diagnosed and treated early. Melanocytes, the pigment-making cells of the skin, can create melanomas and non-cancerous moles. Melanoma can also affect the eye and eyelid. See related eye cancers for more information.

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC): Merkel cell carcinoma is an uncommon type that may grow quickly and be more challenging to treat if it spreads beyond the skin. These cells are close to nerve endings and they share some features with nerve cells and hormone-making cells.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

World class melanoma surveillance and detection clinic. Earlier detection options and more accurate diagnoses helps us identify melanoma when it is most treatable.

Immunotherapy clinical trials. You’ll have access to the most advanced treatment options in South Florida.

One of the few institutions to offer reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM). RCM is able to differentiate between melanoma and other less serious or benign skin lesions to provide an accurate diagnosis. It gives high magnification images of the skin, enabling more accurate diagnosis of lesions that are not entirely defined on clinical examination and dermoscopy.

Advanced expertise in immunohistochemistry and tumor markers. Our expert pathologists make more accurate diagnoses. When pathologists can make the call on the aggressiveness of the tumor, treatment can be more appropriately recommended.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

Treatments

  • Surgery

    The most common treatment for melanomas (90 percent of cases) is surgery. We will determine the most appropriate surgical procedure and provide expert skin replacement for any skin damaged during cancer removal.

    • Wide Local Excision: The melanoma and some of the normal tissue around it are cut out in surgery. The size of the excision is based on the tumor thickness and how deep the melanoma invades into the skin layers. For some facial melanomas, a staged contoured excision may be recommended to plan for final plastic surgery reconstruction.

    • Lymph Node Sampling: Enlarged lymph nodes that can be felt by hand will be removed and biopsied to check for cancerous cells.

    • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: The sentinel lymph node is the first lymph node to which cancer cells are likely to spread. It is identified, removed, and examined to determine cancer presence, the extent of the disease and a recommended treatment plan.

    • Lymphadenectomy: If cancer cells are found, the doctor will remove more lymph nodes and check tissue samples for signs of cancer. A regional lymphadenectomy involves just some of the lymph nodes being removed. A radical lymphadenectomy will remove most or all of the lymph nodes in the tumor area.

  • Chemotherapy

    Drugs administered intravenously, by oral pill, or by intra-arterial chemotherapy

    • Regional Chemotherapy ILI: If you have melanoma in an extremity that is not easy for surgery, or if you are not a candidate for surgery, we may offer isolated limb infusion (ILI). This delivers high local doses of chemotherapy for melanomas in the arms and legs and avoids damage to other tissue. You are hospitalized until the limb inflammation subsides.

    • Systemic Chemotherapy: Traditional chemotherapy delivered intravenously (by vein) or by mouth (pill form) that affects the entire body, in order to destroy cancer cells. Less frequently used for melanoma because of newer, more improved targeted therapies.

  • Immunotherapies

    Also called biologic therapies, these drugs boost the power of the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Biologic therapies under study for melanoma include:

    • Intra-tumor immunotherapy injections: A targeted drug or a combination of drugs or oncolytic virus are injected into tumors or lymph nodes that cannot be surgically removed due to too much tumor, its location, or because you cannot tolerate a surgical procedure.

    • Checkpoint Inhibitor Monoclonal Antibodies and Checkpoint Blockade Drugs: These treatments take advantage of immune T cells that are present in many tumors, but that have been shut off by cancer cells.

    • Interferon: This drug affects the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth.

    • Interleukin-2 or IL-2: This medicine enhances immune cells, especially lymphocytes, to kill cancer cells.

  • Targeted Therapy

    Targeted therapies are treatments using drugs or other substances to attack cancer cells, usually causing less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

    • Signal Transduction Inhibitor Therapy: These drugs block signals that are passed from one molecule to another inside a cell. Different types (e.g., BRAF, MEK inhibitor therapies) are used to treat people with advanced melanoma or who have tumors that cannot be removed by surgery.

    • Oncolytic Virus Therapy: In this therapy, a virus is used to infect and break down cancer cells, but not normal cells. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be given after oncolytic virus therapy to kill more cancer cells.

    • Angiogenesis Inhibitors: Drugs that block the growth of new blood vessels in tumors to starve them.

  • Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy is selectively used for some melanomas, such as tumors too large or located in difficult to treat areas. This may be the best option for patients with other medical complications. High-energy X-rays deliver a hefty daily dose of radiation over a period of two and a half weeks.

    • MRIdian System™ (also called ViewRay™):  We are one of few centers in the world equipped with this radiation delivery system that can acquire magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images during treatment delivery. This tumor tracking tool better targets the tumor and spares more surrounding healthy tissue. It’s not used for superficial skin cancers, but is often indicated for tumors inside the brain, chest and abdomen or pelvis.

    • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT): This radiation therapy comes from many different positions around the tumor. A high dose of radiation is directed at the cancer, but special care is taken to limit the exposure to healthy surrounding tissue.

  • Standard Treatments for Merkel Cell Skin Cancer

    For Merkel cell carcinoma, surgical excision, sometimes sentinel lymph node biopsy for certain size tumors, and clinical trials may be suggested.

    Radiation therapy is generally used to deliver a more conventional daily dose with each treatment over a period of five weeks as either the only treatment or as an adjunct to surgery to prevent local or regional relapse in the draining lymph node chain.


Tests


In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, procedures for diagnosing melanoma include:

  • Skin Examination

    We will look and feel for any bumps or spots that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture. Any suspicious areas can have a tissue sample removed to be tested for cancer.

  • Skin Biopsy

    During this biopsy, a pathologist removes all or part of the abnormal-looking growth is cut from the skin to check for signs of cancer. Types of skin biopsies include.

    • Punch Biopsy: A circle of tissue is removed from the abnormal-looking growth.

    • Incisional Biopsy: Doctors use a scalpel to remove part of the growth.

    • Excisional Biopsy: The entire growth is removed, using a scalpel.

  • Dermoscopy

    Dermoscopy is an examination of the skin using a handheld magnifying device (skin surface microscopy). We evaluate pigmented (colored) lesions and identify any cancerous growths that are not just moles or non-cancerous marks.

  • Reflectance Confocal Microscopy (RCM)

    This additional high magnification testing helps identify lesions not totally defined by dermoscopy.

  • Lymph Node Mapping (Lymphoscintigraphy) and Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

    This technique is performed only when a primary melanoma is of a certain depth (thickness) or looks like a more aggressive tumor. The sentinel lymph node is the first lymph node to which cancer cells are likely to spread. It is identified, removed, and examined to determine cancer presence, extent of the disease and a recommended treatment plan.

  • Genetic Tests

    Roughly half of all melanomas have mutations in the BRAF gene that help the cells grow. Certain medicines help treat melanomas that have this change, but are not likely to successfully treat melanomas without this genetic change. Our pathologists are cellular experts who will test the cells and determine the best treatment approach.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.

  • Aetna WC
  • Aetna Affiliates/Signature Adm (ASA)
  • Aetna Behavioral Health
  • Aetna Elect Choice (EPO)
  • Aetna Florida Healthy Kids
  • Aetna HMO
  • Aetna Medicaid HMO
  • Aetna Medicare HMO
  • Aetna Medicare PPO
  • Aetna POS
  • Aetna PPO
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 1
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 2
  • Aetna UM Employee POS HRA
  • Aetna/Coventry Institutes of Excellence (IOE)
  • Amerigroup Florida Healthy Kids
  • Amerigroup Medicaid HMO
  • Argus Vision
  • AvMed Choice
  • AvMed HMO/POS
  • AvMed MDC and JHS Groups
  • AvMed Medicare HMO
  • AXIS
  • BCBS Blue Options Network Blue PPO
  • BCBS BlueCare HealthOptions HMO
  • BCBS BlueChoice PPC/PPO
  • BCBS Miami Dade Blue PPO Limited Benefits Plan
  • BCBS of Florida (All products except "SELECT" Plans)
  • BCBS of Florida (Commercial plans exclude HIX Select)
  • BCBS Traditional PHS/PPO
  • Beacon Health (ValueOption)
  • Beech Street PPO
  • Broward Health Medical Center
  • CarePlus Medicare HMO
  • Catholic Hospice
  • CCP/CMS Title XIX (Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/CMS Title XXI (Non Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/MMA (Broward County residents)
  • Charlotte County Sheriffs Office PPO
  • Cigna Affiliates
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • Cigna Dental HMO/PPO
  • Cigna EPO
  • Cigna HMO
  • Cigna Life Source (Intracorp is part of Cigna Lifesource)
  • Cigna MDCPS Jackson Sr. High
  • Cigna POS
  • Cigna PPO
  • Cigna Shared Administration
  • Clear Health Alliance SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Concordia Behavioral Health
  • CorVel WC
  • Coventry First Health WC
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) HMO/POS
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) PPO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) HMO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) POS
  • Coventry National PPO
  • Coventry Summit Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Coventry First Health PPO
  • Delta Dental PPO
  • DentaQuest (ADI)
  • DIKLA
  • Dimension WC
  • Dimension Plus PPO
  • EHN PPO
  • EQUIAN (Health Systems International)
  • Europe Assistance/Global Corporate Solutions (Care Management Network)
  • eyeQuest
  • FCCI WC
  • Florida Healthcare Plan (Affiliate of BCBSFL)
  • Florida PACE (FPC)
  • Freedom Health Medicaid HMO
  • Freedom Health Medicare HMO
  • Gallagher Bassett WC (MDCPS & FCSRMC)
  • Global Excel Mgt PPO
  • Great West (Cigna) HMO/POS
  • Guardian Life PPO
  • HAA Preferred Partners
  • Health First Health HMO/POS
  • Health First Health Medicare HMO
  • Health First Health PPO
  • Health Net Veterans Choice HMO
  • Heritage Summit Healthcare WC
  • Humana Behavioral Health (LifeSynch)
  • Humana Dental/CompBenefits/OHS
  • Humana EPO
  • Humana HMO
  • Humana Medicaid HMO
  • Humana Medicare HMO
  • Humana National Transplant
  • Humana PPO
  • Humana Premier
  • iCare Health Solutions
  • Interlink Health Services
  • International Kids Fund (IKF)
  • League Medical Concepts Federal Inmates
  • Life Trac
  • Magellan Behavioral Health
  • Magellan Complete Care SNP Medicaid HMO
  • MDAbroad
  • Medica Medicare HMO
  • Medical Development In't (MDI)-Federal Inmates
  • Medicus
  • Metlife Dental PPO
  • MHNet Behavioral Network (MHNet)
  • Molina
  • Molina Market Place
  • Molina Medicaid HMO
  • Molina Medicare HMO
  • Morgan White International
  • MultiPlan PPO
  • Naphcare (Federal Prisoners)
  • National Healthcare Solutions Inc.
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan HMO/POS
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan PPO
  • North Broward Hospital District PPO
  • Olympus Managed Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicare HMO
  • Prestige Health Choice Medicaid HMO
  • Prime Health Services WC
  • Quality Health Management
  • Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses PPO
  • Rockport Healthcare Group WC
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises PPO
  • Sanus Health Corporation
  • Seasons Hospice
  • Simply Healthcare Medicaid HMO
  • Solstice Dental HMO/PPO
  • Start Healthcare Network
  • Sunshine
  • Sunshine AMBETTER
  • Sunshine Healthy Kids HMO
  • Sunshine Medicaid HMO
  • Sunshine Medicare HMO
  • Tricare South Prime HMO
  • Tricare South Standard PPO
  • United Behavioral Health (UBH)
  • UnitedHealthcare Affiliates
  • UnitedHealthcare Healthy Kids HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare HMO/POS
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicaid HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare Nursing Home Plan
  • UnitedHealthcare PPO
  • University of Miami Athletic Dept PPO
  • VUMI
  • Wellcare/Staywell Healthy Kids HMO
  • Wellcare/Staywell Medicaid HMO
  • Wexford Health State Inmates
  • Worldwide Managed Care