Chemotherapy for advanced melanoma

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes used to help control or slow the growth of advanced melanoma.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is not often used to treat melanoma. Your doctor may recommend it after you have had treatment with immunotherapy and targeted therapies, or if these treatments do not work.

Chemotherapy may help control or slow the growth of the melanoma for a time. Your cancer specialist will explain more about the possible benefits and side effects.

There are several chemotherapy drugs that may be used to treat advanced melanoma. The most commonly used drug is called dacarbazine (DTIC). Sometimes other drugs are used.

Having chemotherapy for advanced melanoma

You usually have chemotherapy drugs as an injection into a vein (intravenously), or sometimes by mouth (orally). You may have only one drug, or a combination, depending on your situation.

You usually have chemotherapy as an outpatient. This means you can go home on the same day. Occasionally you may have it during a short stay in hospital.

Side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy drugs may cause unpleasant side effects, but these can usually be well controlled with medicines and will usually go away once treatment has finished. Not all drugs cause the same side effects and some people may have very few. You can talk to your doctor or nurse about what to expect from the treatment that’s planned for you.

We have more information about the side effects of chemotherapy.