About Melanoma

Melanoma is a disease in which cancer cells form in the cells that color the skin, called melanocytes. If it is not treated, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis Its ability to spread makes melanoma the most serious form of skin cancer. Other types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma and squamous call carcinoma.

If you have or suspect you may have melanoma or cancer that could be melanoma, you should see a dermatologist first.

Dermatologists can often treat melanoma in earlier stages. For other stages, you will be referred to our surgical oncologists or the multidisciplinary melanoma team at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. Our teams work together to choose the right treatment for you based on your cancer.

Compared to other states, Oregon has a high rate of melanomas diagnosed each year.

More information about melanoma.

My Knight Cancer Story

rameyI grew up in a small town north of Seattle and, with all those cloudy days, never used sunscreen; in fact, my goal was to get tan as fast as possible whenever the sun did shine. In 2007, I began my seven-year fight against skin cancer when I first noticed an itchy mole on my back.

Read more about Shon’s story

Treatment Options

Treating melanoma requires complete removal of the cancer. At the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, we believe every patient deserves an individualized treatment plan. Our dermatologists and surgeons work with a multidisciplinary melanoma team to determine if you need more treatment after cancer surgery. This multidisciplinary team meets twice a month to discuss and plan treatment for each patient.

Lymph Node Biopsy

We work with the National Sentinal Lymph Node Working Group for patients who need  lymph node biopsy. 

Mole Mapping/Pigmented Lesions Program

Oregon has a high rate of melanoma cases diagnosed each year. Getting checked by a dermatologist can help prevent melanoma by finding moles, freckles or other spots that could become cancer. We offer a prevention program for patients who have a personal history of melanoma or abnormal moles, a family history of melanoma or many unusual moles.

Beyond sun protection, early detection is the best defense against melanoma and other skin cancers. Our mole mapping program includes a thorough examination by a doctor who will note and record anything unusual. A medical photographer will take pictures of anything your doctor thinks should be examined again. You will have a photo record that your doctor can look at each year and that you can use to watch moles for signs of melanoma or suspicious changes.

Genetic Counseling

Patients with a family history of melanoma may be interested in learning more about family risk.  The Genetic Counseling Service can provide you with information.  Please contact Jone Sampson, M.D. on 503 494-4800.

Our Team

Our melanoma team is one of the most highly regarded in the Pacific Northwest. We are the premier place in the region to treat skin cancer, including melanoma. Our dermatologists treat early stage melanoma, while our multidisciplinary melanoma team sees patients who need more treatment. 

Up to one-third of melanomas are on the scalp, ear, nose, cheek or neck. Because of the sensitive organs and tissues in this area, including the face and senses of hearing and smell, melanomas in these areas are best treated by a team that includes specially trained head and neck and facial plastic surgeons.

Our multidisciplinary  melanoma team includes specialists from dermatology, surgical oncology, head and neck surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, nuclear medicine, plastic surgery, pathology and mole mapping to provide comprehensive melanoma treatment. This multidisciplinary team meets twice a month to discuss and plan treatment for each patient. 


 Pamela Russel, R.N.