New studies oppose prior beliefs that removing tumors is pointless in cases where the melanoma had spread to the abdomen. Surgical removal of the tumor has been shown to extend survival rates. The study conducted by Dr. Gary Deutsch, surgical oncologist, tracked 1600 patients between 1969 and 2014.
In his study almost 1 out of four patients opted to have surgery to remove mass(es) from their abdomen. Those who had the procedure lived more than twice as long as those who only utilized drugs to treat the melanoma. Rates of survival increased to 18 months compared to the previous 7 months on average.
In the past melanoma that had reached the patient’s liver or other abdominal organs was considered incurable and surgery was thought to be of no use.
The people who accepted to do surgery had a lifespan almost doubled those who accepted to use drug treatments alone.
More recently new immune-based drugs that were more powerful have offered doctors new pharmaceutical options to battle advanced melanomas. With these advancements, the question has arisen: Does removal of part of the affected organ make a difference is survival rates? Dr. Deutsch has been trying to access the role surgery for metastatic melanomas since the drugs were developed.
“Today, metastatic melanoma is [also] discovered earlier in a number of patients, likely because of better imaging techniques, so surgeons may be able to intervene before it becomes futile.” Deutsch stated.
In the most recent study, patients either had surgery alone or in conjunction with pharmaceutical treatments or radiofrequency ablation. All of the patients had abdominal melanomas that were potentially operable. Most patients, almost 700, had liver cancer, while 336 had cancer of gastrointestinal tract, 138 had cancer in their adrenal glands, 109 had it in the spleen, and 38 had pancreatic cancer. 305 of these patients had cancer in multiple areas of their abdomen.
Those who suffered with melanomas on their gastrointestinal tract and had curative surgery had the longest survival rates on average, more than two years. Some surgeries were performed laparoscopically and were minimally invasive.
The findings are welcomed news for both surgeons and patients. It allows hope for patients who were previously provided with lethal prognosis, ex. patients with stage 4 metastatic melanoma.
Even with these findings patients considered for surgery need to be carefully selected.