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Why a Head and Neck Oncology Surgeon for Melanoma Surgery?

The physical location and cosmetic implications of melanomas located on the face, scalp, and other areas of the head and neck require an advanced level of surgical skill. Dr. Friedlander and Dr. Aslam of the Tulane Head and Neck Surgery Center are experienced head and neck oncology surgeons that specialize in the surgical management of melanoma tumors that occur on all areas of the head and neck. They understand the needs and concerns of patients who will have surgery on such a sensitive area and incorporate a multidisciplinary approach – working closely our Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon, as well as with pathologists, dermatologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other specialists – in order to map out the most appropriate and effective course of treatment with the least amount of impact.

Melanoma Surgery

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that is less common than other types of skin cancer but is much more serious and is the most likely to spread. Melanomas may appear on any portion of the skin, and may develop at the site of an existing mole or birthmark. As with other types of cancer melanomas start when normal cells change to become abnormal and then spread to the surrounding area. A melanoma may appear as a flat, brown or black mole with irregular edges or an asymmetrical shape. Unlike a normal mole a melanoma can change color, size, or the shape of its border, and can present as a raised, pebbled or rounded section of skin, and / or become scaled or bleed. If left untreated the tumor can spread into surrounding tissue, the nearby lymph nodes or to internal organs.

If your physician has confirmed that you have a melanoma the most common course of treatment is surgery to remove the cancerous region. Nearby lymph nodes may be removed at the same time in order to identify if the cancer has spread. Early stage melanomas may be treated with surgery alone while advanced cases may require additional treatment. Melanoma surgeries include:

  • Local excision
    This surgery removes the melanoma and a small area of surrounding tissue.

  • Wide local excision
    This surgery removes the melanoma and a wider margin of surrounding tissue. This procedure may also include a lymphadenectomy.

  • Lymphadenectomy
    Surgery may be necessary to determine if the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes. The initial surgery, referred to as a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy, removes the first lymph node that the cancer may have spread to from the tumor. If this lymph node does not have any cancer cells, then it may not be necessary to go any further; if the cancer has spread additional lymph nodes may need to be removed.

Reconstructive Surgery

Depending upon the size of the tumor and the area of excision, plastic reconstructive surgery may be necessary in order to improve function or to restore the appearance of the affected area. This will most likely be the case if the tumor is of a significant size or is late-stage, or is located on an area of the face or head that is highly visible. When planning for any surgery on the head or neck Drs. Aslam and Friedlander always include our plastic surgeon in order to provide the patient with a comprehensive plan for the return of function and appearance.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment or schedule a second opinion consultation with our surgeons please contact our Patient Representative.

Head and Neck Surgery Specialists   504.988.1965   1.888.284.3726   headandnecksurgery@tulane.edu