Understanding Metastatic Melanoma

The most dangerous part of melanoma is its ability, in later stages, to spread (or metastasize) to different parts of the body. Metastatic melanoma, also known as Stage IV melanoma, is the stage where melanoma cells of any kind (mucosal, cutaneous, or visual) have spread through the lymph nodes to other organs in the body. These metastases frequently influence the lungs, liver, brain and bones.

Similarly, as with different cancers, metastases happen when melanoma is not in the early stages. Often, symptoms only manifest once the tumor has officially spread. Once metastatic melanoma has spread, determining the original sort is nearly unthinkable, which makes planning the right treatment quite difficult. Simply put, early detection is essential.

Metastatic melanoma is a type of cancer that affects your skin and may spread to your bones and other organs. It is the most severe type of skin cancer. As a matter of fact, there are about 53,000 new cases of metastatic melanoma every year. Sadly, at least 8,000 people die from melanoma annually.

Where to Find Melanoma

Metastatic melanoma can manifest on any part of the skin. However, exposure to sunlight increases the risk of developing melanoma. It appears most commonly on the upper back of both men and women and on the legs for women. In some cases, Melanoma also grows on hidden surfaces such as the palms, soles, and nail beds, but these cases are more common for those with darker skin. Body cavities such as the mouth, the rectum, and the vagina are also at risk of skin cancer. For older men and women, skin cancer manifests firsthand on the face. However, for older men, the neck, scalp, and ears are the most common sites on which skin cancer begins to grow.

Signs to Watch Out For

Being vigilant about moles and other marks on the skin is just as important as doing a routine breast examination, mammogram, or any other routine checkup needed to diagnose any form of cancer. There are several warning signs to watch out for if one wishes to detect the early onset of cancer such as the growth of a new mole or drastic changes in an existing mole.

metastatic melanoma

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Existing moles? Keep a close watch on them!

A mole may be there for years and not show any visible signs of Melanoma. However, one should remain observant and regularly check for any changes in size, color, and texture of the mole. For example, if a previously flat mole or birthmark begins to thicken or rise and if its surface suddenly begins to feel scaly or crusty, that is never a good sign. If a mole is getting bigger, changing shape or color, becoming itchy or painful, and in extreme circumstances, bleeding, one must immediately seek medical attention and have it checked for possible cancerous cells.

Other Melanoma Symptoms

There are also other symptoms of Melanoma that are not as easily detectable, which may mean that the tumor has metastasized. Among these symptoms are the appearance of lymph nodes, particularly in the armpit and the groin, unexplained weight loss, chronic cough, headaches, melanosis or graying of the skin, seizures, and the appearance of a lump under the skin.

Metastatic Melanoma Treatments

Early prevention is always better than a cure. Metastatic Melanoma can be prevented by reducing exposure to the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm with adequate clothing and sun block (at least SPF 15). Children are affected by sunrays, and it has been proved that juvenile sunburns greatly increase the danger of adult melanoma.

Melanoma remedy is very effective in the early stages so you should be alert and be aware of every symptom of the disease. You should be especially concerned about your existing moles changing color or shape, and of course, new ones appearing unexpectedly. Standard melanoma moles are lop-sided with irregular borders. Advanced melanoma moles have oozing, swellings, itching, or bleeding.

metastatic melanoma

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Melanoma treatment varies according to the progression of the disease. Laser resurfacing, aka TCA chemical peel, can treat actinic keratoses or sun damage leading to skin cancer.

In the early stages, surgery to remove the tumor and the adjacent tissues are effective enough to destroy the metastatic cancer cells. The amount of tissue removed depends on the spread of the cancerous growth.

Surgery for metastatic melanoma may involve a skin graft to replenish the lost tissues. If melanoma spreads to the lymph nodes, surgery may also include removal of the lymph nodes. Advanced melanoma treatment includes chemotherapy. This involves the use of cancer drugs in capsule form and intravenous injections to kill the cancer cells.

Radiation and Biological therapies are the last bastions of melanoma treatment. In radiation therapy, laboratory-generated cancer-combating substances, modifiers (BRMs) like tumor vaccines, interleukin-2, or -alfa are administered to the melanoma patient.

Radiation therapy involves the use of x-rays that destroy cancer cells in the body. This form of melanoma treatment can last several sessions. Its side effects include dryness, topical redness, and rashes, which disappear over time. However, changes in skin texture and color may occur after a few years.

Melanoma treatment should take place under strict medical guidance to ensure complete remission and prevent a recurrence.

Featured Image Source: Thinkstock/Zerbor

Posted on May 22, 2023