Melanoma (paediatric)

Melanoma is very rare in children but becomes more common during adolescence and young adult life. 

The Royal Marsden has extensive expertise with melanoma and offers a full range of diagnosis, treatment and care services for melanoma in children and young people at its hospital in Sutton, Surrey, in conjunction with St George’s Hospital, London:

  • primary assessment and diagnosis
  • chemotherapy
  • critical care
  • palliative and supportive care
  • rehabilitation
  • cancer genetics
  • clinical trials
  • private care.

Care is provided by a multidisciplinary team which includes experts in the field of paediatric oncology, paediatric surgery, specialist melanoma physicians and surgeons, specialist nurses and other health professionals. We also work closely with the adult gynaecology and testicular teams at The Royal Marsden to ensure the best possible medical and surgical treatment is offered.

Primary assessment and diagnosis

Initial referrals come from a variety of sources including general practitioners, consultant paediatricians, consultant surgeons and consultant dermatologists from local hospitals, or via the adult melanoma team at The Royal Marsden. Assessment is usually done as an outpatient but can be done as an inpatient if the patient is unwell. Children requiring high-dependency care are transferred directly to St George’s Hospital from their referring hospital.

Diagnostic investigations may include:

  • blood tests
  • CT and MRI scans
  • bone scan or PET scan
  • biopsy of the tumour if appropriate
  • surgical removal of suspicious moles
  • insertion of a central venous line.

All painful procedures in children are performed under general anaesthetic. All diagnostic investigations are reviewed at our weekly multidisciplinary team meeting which includes experts from the specialist laboratories.

Treatment and clinical trials

All children and young people are offered the most up-to-date treatment and, where applicable, entry to a clinical trial.

The Royal Marsden is a leading centre participating in national and international clinical trials for treating childhood melanoma. The Children and Young People’s Unit has a strong research interest in drug development and new agents, and is one of the leading centres in the UK investigating new drugs for melanoma in children and young people. In addition, there are a number of collaborative research projects with The Institute of Cancer Research.

Patient care and support

Care is provided by a multidisciplinary team which includes specialist nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, play therapists, activity coordinators, psychologists and the symptom care team. As many of our patients have to travel significant distances, treatment is delivered jointly with their local hospital. This is coordinated by our shared care coordinator and clinical nurse specialists.

Patients are seen regularly to monitor progress with treatment and continue to be seen after treatment has finished. Five years after treatment, patients are transferred to the long-term follow-up clinic to monitor for any long-term effects of therapy.