Minimally Invasive Surgery to Remove Lymph Nodes Cuts Down on Recovery Time
When melanoma has reached Stage III, it frequently means that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes closest to the original cancer site. In Stage IV, many of the body's lymph nodes are affected. When skin cancer is detected, doctors examine the closest lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread. If so, they may need to be removed.
Depending on the spread of cancer, surgery to remove lymph nodes, lymphadenectomy, can be quite extensive and involve a hospital stay of up to 5 days and a recovery of weeks. And, the larger the incision to remove the lymph nodes, the greater the chance for infection. Removing all of the lymph nodes in the groin area, for example, can require an incision of 12 inches, going from the hip to the thigh. For some, getting back to normal activities doesn't happen for 6 weeks or more.
Minimally Invasive Procedures
A few doctors are using a minimally invasive procedure to remove lymph nodes in the groin area. Instead of one long incision, they make three small incisions, totalling less than one inch. This reduces the chance of infection and the time it takes to recover from the surgery. According to Medical News Today, some patients are able to return home just one day after the surgery.
This type of procedure is new. Medical News Today reports that two surgical oncologists, Jeffrey D. Wayne, M.D. and Karl Bilimoria, M.D., have begun using this type of procedure at Northwestern University Memorial Hospital.
This is good news for those with skin cancer. If the cancer does spread, the lymph nodes are usually affected. According to Wayne, removing them "is the only way to make sure we get all of the cancer." 
After the surgery, monitoring is still necessary. Removing the lymph nodes can cause swelling in the leg and follow-up to check to see if the cancer has been completely removed are necessary. But overall, this type of surgery allows cancer patients to get back to their lives quicker than the traditional type of surgery.
"Lymph Node Involvement," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Skin Cancer Foundation
 New Minimally Invasive Technique for Treating Melanoma," 2013, Aug. 28, Staff Writer, MedicalNewsToday.com