Radiation therapy uses a high-energy beam to kill cancer cells. Radiation, when recommended, is usually used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. To minimize damage to normal tissue, many beams of radiation may be aimed from different angles to meet at the tumour. This delivers more radiation to the tumour than to healthy cells around it. Postoperative radiation is considered in the following situations:

  • The melanoma has spread from the lymph nodes.
  • Disease remains after surgery.
  • A great deal of melanoma is present in lymph nodes, and surgery is unlikely to remove all the cancerous cells
  • The lymph nodes are greatly enlarged.

Radiation may be used to achieve local control of the melanoma if surgery is not possible. Radiation may also be used to treat melanoma that recurs. In addition, radiation may be used to help treat pain or other symptoms of melanoma.

Side Effects of Radiation

Radiation therapy is painless. Other side effects may occur. Side effects depend on how much radiation you receive and the part of the body treated. Skin treated with radiation may be red, dry, tender, and itchy. Hair loss may occur in the treated area. Changes in the skin usually disappear within six to 12 months. Fatigue often occurs during radiation therapy. Energy levels generally return to normal after radiation. Rarely, radiation may lead to the development of a different tumour. Your treatment team can help you manage radiation side effects.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Radiation

  • How long does treatment last?
  • How often will I have radiation?
  • Will I feel any pain?
  • What are the side effects of radiation?
  • What problems do I need to watch for after radiation?
  • Are there any long-term side effects?
  • Will I have a scar?

Melanoma Drug Therapies

The past few years have been breakthrough melanoma drug therapies for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Learn about the different therapies available in Canada

Melanoma What You Need To Know

A leading national melanoma resource written with the help of specialists in oncology and health care.

Melanoma Support

The Melanoma Network of Canada has a number of free services for patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals.