Surgery takes new approach to stopping melanoma



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Posted on June 27, 2010 at 6:30 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Stopping skin cancer from spreading can mean disfiguring scars, but a new type of surgery is resulting in smaller incisions and fewer complications.

Sixteen-year-old swimmer Grant Grussing thought the small lesion on his leg was nothing, but it was melanoma and it had spread to his lymph nodes.

"Your 16-year-old son, and knowing there's a potential for really the worst to happen, is just devastating," said Grant’s father Don Grussing.

Grant needed surgery.

“If you are able to remove the lymph nodes well, completely, you have the opportunity to stop cancer in its tracks,” said Dr. Viraj Master, Assistant Professor of Urology at Emory University of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Removing lymph nodes from the thigh and groin area used to mean an eight to ten-inch incision and a 50 percent risk of complications.

"The enormity of the risk of the procedure is based in the fact that it's a large incision in an area that's prone to infection," said Dr. Keith Delman, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Emory University of Medicine.
Delman helped develop a new approach. Instead of one big incision, he makes three half-inch incisions. He fills the thigh with air then goes under the skin to remove the lymph nodes, staying clear of vital structures.

“There's no one else in the world who has done this approach for melanoma," said Delman.

Grant jumped back into competitive swimming less than a month after surgery. And so far, he's cancer-free.

“I'm good to go, 100 percent," said Grant.

Now, his dad can cheer him on to a healthier future.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.