Radiation Therapy for Melanoma

Radiation therapy is a way to treat cancer. A beam comes from a machine outside of the body. Short bursts of x-rays are aimed at tumors inside the body. It may be used after surgery to keep cancer from spreading or coming back. Radiation can also help to ease symptoms.

Stereotactic radiosurgery allows for higher doses. This type can be better aimed at the tumor and not the healthy tissue around it. This can also result in fewer doses for some people.

Radiation of a Tumor

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Side Effects and Management

Problems depend on where the beam is aimed. They may include:

  • Chest problems:
    • Cough
    • Trouble breathing
    • Trouble swallowing or eating
  • Belly or pelvic problems:
    • Blood in the urine, or pain or burning while passing urine
    • Blood in the stool, pain during bowel movements, leaking stool or diarrhea
    • Pain during sex because of vaginal dryness
    • Erectile dysfunction
    • Infertility—talk to your doctor about options to preserve fertility before starting treatment
  • Feeling tired because of anemia
  • Dry, irritated skin
  • Nausea or vomiting

There are many ways to control these problems. Medicines and lifestyle changes are the most common. Talk to your care team as soon as these appear so they can be better controlled.


Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115302/Melanoma. Updated March 26, 2019. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Melanoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/cancers-of-the-skin/melanoma. Updated March 2019. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Melanoma: Diagnosis and treatment. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/melanoma#treatment. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Radiation therapy for melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/treating/radiation-therapy.html. Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/melanoma-treatment-pdq#_135. Updated May 1, 2019. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 5/7/2019

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