Ask the Dermatologists
I’ve just been diagnosed with “melanoma in situ.” What does that mean?

This diagnosis means that you have melanoma skin cancer in its earliest and most treatable form.

The term “in situ” describes the depth of the melanoma. “In situ” literally means “in the original position or place.” This tells your dermatologist that the cancer is in the outermost layer of your skin; the cancer has not spread. When detected in this beginning stage, also called “Stage 0,” the cure rate averages 95% with treatment.

Treatment for melanoma in situ consists of surgically removing the tumor and an area of normal-looking skin. When appropriate, the dermatologist does this during the biopsy (when skin is removed so that a diagnosis can be made). If complete removal was not appropriate during the biopsy, you will be scheduled for this procedure. While the idea of having more skin removed from this area may not be welcomed, having the surgery is essential. When the melanoma along with a margin of normal-looking skin is removed, this often eliminates the cancer. If some of the melanoma remains, the cancer can grow and spread.

The good news is that when the melanoma is removed in its earliest stage, the prognosis for a full recovery is likely.

While the prognosis for melanoma in situ is promising, it is vital that patients diagnosed with melanoma in situ:

  • Practice sun safety
  • Perform regular self-exams of their skin
  • Keep all follow-up appointments with their dermatologist

For more information about sun safety, read Protect Yourself from the Sun.

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Page last updated 5/10/07

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