New Melanoma Guidelines Will Save Lives

Cancer Council Australia and Melanoma Institute Australia have launched updated clinical guidelines for the treatment of melanoma.

Sweeping changes to national medical guidelines for diagnosing and treating melanoma will hopefully prevent many lives being lost to the deadly skin cancer, which kills around 2,000 Australians every year and affects thousands more.

It is essential for patients that their doctors are guided by the latest evidence. Melanoma treatments have changed dramatically in recent years due to ongoing research, and it is vital that healthcare professionals in Australia are aware of new diagnostic tools and treatments that are saving lives.

The updated guidelines recommend the use of sentinel lymph node biopsies - a minimally invasive procedure that enables clinicians to determine a patient's risk of melanoma recurrence. If the sentinel node has melanoma in it, drug treatments can reduce the chance of the melanoma returning.

Clinicians are advised against unnecessarily performing major lymph node surgery, as recent clinical trials have shown that complete removal of all remaining lymph nodes, which was previously the standard treatment recommendation, usually provides no additional patient benefit, and it is no longer standard management.

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.

Patients can be assured that the updated guidelines cover every stage of melanoma, and that these sweeping changes to the melanoma clinical care guidelines are all evidence-based and have a huge potential to save lives.