What is the role of lymph node dissection in the treatment of cutaneous melanoma?

Updated: Oct 13, 2020
  • Author: Susan M Swetter, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Prophylactic lymph node dissection for primary cutaneous melanoma of intermediate thickness initially was believed to confer a survival advantage on patients with tumors of 1-4 mm in depth. However, subsequent prospective randomized clinical trials have shown no survival benefit for elective lymphadenectomy for melanomas of varying thicknesses on the extremities and marginal, if any, benefit for nonextremity melanomas. [134, 135]

The 10-year follow-up data from two of the trials conducted by the World Health Organization and the Melanoma Intergroup suggested a survival benefit for certain subsets of patients studied. Patients with occult metastasis detected at the time of wide local excision who underwent immediate elective lymph node dissection had a significantly better 5-year survival rate (48%) compared with those who underwent delayed (therapeutic) lymph node dissection when lymphadenopathy became apparent clinically (27%). [136] However, the differences in OS rates for all patients who had delayed lymph node dissection were not statistically significant compared with the immediate node dissection group.

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