Diagnosed With Melanoma During Pregnancy? 3 Treatment Options

An estimated 1 out of every 1,000 women suffers from cancer during pregnancy.  Some of these pregnant cancer patients must deal with the ravages of melanoma.  Melanoma is a potentially fatal form of skin cancer.  If you've been diagnosed with melanoma during pregnancy, consider the following 3 skin cancer treatment options.

Wide-Local Excision

If you've been diagnosed with melanoma, you may have first noticed:

  • A new colored growth on your skin
  • A new odd looking growth on your skin
  • A difference in an old growth on your skin

Unfortunately, melanomas can form on any area of the body.  However, they are especially likely to form on the parts of your body that receive the most sun exposure.  For most people, this tendency involves the:

  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Face
  • Back

Regardless of where your melanoma is located, your physician will probably wish to remove it as quickly as possible.  During melanoma treatment, the first course of action is often a wide-local excision.  This form of treatment is typically considered safe to be performed on pregnant women.  A wide-local excision involves:

  • Cleansing the part of the skin that will be affected by the surgery
  • Arranging sterilized towels around the surgical site
  • Numbing the affected area with a local anesthetic
  • Removing the affected tissue
  • Closing the incision with stitches or sutures

Upon completion of the surgery, your physician will send the collected tissue to a laboratory for thorough testing.  The risks associated with wide-local excision are usually small.  They include:

  • Bleeding problems
  • Allergic reactions to the anesthesia
  • Healing issues
  • Infection
  • Scarring

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

For some melanoma patients, wide-local excision is the only course of action needed.  However, during this type of procedure, doctors sometimes determine that a melanoma is bigger than they originally had estimated it to be.  In other cases, the laboratory's findings indicate the melanoma is not contained to the area of the wide-local excision. 

Once one of these determinations is made, sentinel lymph node biopsy may be warranted.  When skin cancer spreads from a melanoma to other parts of the body, it first reaches a sentinel lymph node.  During sentinel lymph node biopsy, this problematic lymph node is:

  • Discovered
  • Removed surgically
  • Analyzed for the existence of cancer cells

If the sentinel lymph node contains cancerous cells, neighboring lymph nodes may also be cancerous.  Sadly, other organs in the body may also be affected.  A positive sentinel lymph node biopsy usually signals the need for more aggressive types of treatment.

This type of procedure can be performed on a pregnant patient.  If you are pregnant and must undergo this kind of surgery, your surgeon may request the presence of your obstetric team during the procedure. 


Depending on the severity of your melanoma, your physician might recommend chemotherapy.  During chemotherapy, certain types of medications are administered to patients in an attempt to kill cancer cells.  Chemotherapy's success hinges on its ability to halt the power of cancer cells to divide and increase in size. 

Chemotherapy is usually prohibited during the first trimester of pregnancy because of its ability to induce miscarriage and produce birth defects.  The first trimester of pregnancy is especially vital because an unborn baby's organs are forming at this time.  However, during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, some forms of chemotherapy can be administered relatively safely.

If you receive chemotherapy during pregnancy, you might face increased risks for becoming anemic or malnourished.  You may also end up delivering your baby early.  If this happens, your child might not weigh as much as he or she should weigh at birth.

Receiving a diagnosis of melanoma can be overwhelming for anyone.  If you're pregnant, hearing this news might be especially difficult to handle.  Fortunately, the aforementioned 3 treatment alternatives have been used to treat pregnant women successfully and safely.  To learn more about these treatment options, make an appointment with your trusted skin cancer specialist today.