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Chemotherapy for Melanoma

Chemotherapy is not as effective in treating advanced melanoma as it is in treating some other types of cancer. However, it may slow the growth of the cancer and help to relieve some of the symptoms.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body in order to kill cancer cells. The side effects from the chemotherapy come from the fact that it destroys normal cells as well as the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy may be given either alone or along with surgery, immunotherapy medicines, or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is usually given by vein, but some forms can be given by mouth as well. Your medical oncologist will tell you how many cycles or courses of chemotherapy are best for you.

The most common agents used for treating melanoma are dacarbazine, temozolomide, cisplatin, and carmustine. Other agents may also be used. They may be delivered systemically or to an isolated area by perfusion techniques that introduce the drug into the main blood vessels supplying the area (usually a limb) that contains the tumor.

The side effects and amount of time required in the doctor’s office depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive, as well as how many cycles you receive and how often. The most common chemotherapy-associated side effects are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea

Revision Information

  • Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated April 3, 2013. Accessed April 9, 2013.

  • Melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: . Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed April 9, 2013.

  • Melanoma treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: . Updated April 1, 2013. Accessed April 9, 2013.

  • Melanoma treatment-chemotherapy. Melanoma Research Foundation website. Available at: . Accessed April 9, 2013.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Parkridge Health System does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.