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Sweeping changes to melanoma guidelines

Using clinical features to treat patients at risk of melanoma - Featured Image


Major changes to national medical guidelines for diagnosing and treating melanoma are set to prevent many lives being lost to the deadly skin cancer.

A key component of the updated clinical guidelines, developed by Cancer Council Australia and Melanoma Institute Australia, is the recommended use of a highly effective disease staging procedure to better predict recurrence.

Professor John Thompson at Melanoma Institute Australia said it was essential for patients that their treating doctors are guided by the latest evidence on best practice.

“The melanoma treatment landscape has changed dramatically in recent years due to extensive and ongoing research and clinical trials, and it is vital that frontline healthcare professionals across Australia are aware of new diagnostic techniques and treatments that are saving lives,’ Prof Thompson said.

Recommended is the use of sentinel lymph node biopsy – a minimally invasive procedure that enables clinicians to determine a patient’s risk of melanoma recurrence.

“Discussing this procedure with patients is important because if the sentinel node has melanoma in it, drug treatment can reduce the chance of the melanoma returning,” Prof Thompson said.

Clinicians are also advised against unnecessarily performing major lymph node surgery.

“Recent clinical trial results have shown that complete removal of all remaining lymph nodes, previously the standard treatment recommendation, usually provides no additional patient benefit, and it is no longer standard management,’ he said.

Other key recommendations included how to identify individuals at very high risk of melanoma, and the need for doctors to investigate any lesions that grow or change in size, shape, colour or elevation.

Professor Georgina Long, an oncologist with the Conjoint Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia, said patients can be assured that the updated guidelines cover every stage of melanoma.

“These sweeping changes to the melanoma clinical care guidelines are all evidence based and have a huge potential to save lives and benefit patients across the country,” she said.

You can access the new guidelines here.