The later stages of melanoma can be the most frightening. This is when it has the ability to spread to other areas of the body. This is known as metastasis melanoma, often referred to as Stage IV melanoma. In this situation, the melanoma cells have advanced to the lymph nodes in different areas of your body. It may have also spread to different organs in your body such as the liver, brain, bones, lungs and more. This often results when the melanoma is not detected and treated during its early stages.
It is common for the metastasis melanoma symptoms to be recognized once it is in advanced stages. At this time, it is very difficult to determine the original type of melanoma. It can be difficult to find the right treatment for metastatic melanoma.
It is believed that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds are most often the cause of melanoma. This exposure has been shown to harm the DNA in the cells of your skin. It causes these cells to grow out of control. It is possible for you to get melanoma on areas of your body that aren’t exposed to the sunlight. This includes the retinas of your eyes as well as the palms of your hands and more.
If you have light hair, fair skin as well as light eye color, you could be at an increased risk for melanoma. Should you have a number of moles as well as small brown blemishes known as irregular moles, you also have an increased risk of developing melanoma. When melanoma runs in a family, its members are also at a greater risk of developing this cancer.
You may have developed metastasis melanoma if there are hardened lumps beneath your skin. Your lymph nodes are swollen or painful, you struggle to breathe, or have a cough that just doesn’t get better. Other symptoms include loss of appetite or the liver swelling beneath your lower right ribs. Should you have a pain in your bone, easily broken bones, weight loss and fatigue, metastasis melanoma could be the cause. Other symptoms include numbness in your legs and arms, seizures, headaches as well as weakness.
If you are showing the symptoms of metastatic melanoma, your physician will do a thorough skin exam. If there is a possibility you have some form of melanoma, they will need to take a biopsy to confirm or deny it. There are two different types of biopsies a physician can perform. A punch biopsy will remove a round piece of the suspect skin area. There is also an excisional biopsy. This is when a physician removes the entire growth. A doctor can take the skin that has been removed and observe it under a microscope. They will try to determine its thickness. The thicker a tumor, the more advanced the melanoma.
Stages of Melanoma
Once it has been determined that you do have melanoma, your physician will go to the next step. This is to identify the melanoma you have and classify its degree of severity. This is known as the stages of melanoma. The stage classification identifies the depth, thickness as well as penetration and how much the melanoma has spread inside your body. The subsequent treatment is determined by the stage of melanoma.
Early Melanoma Stages
Stages 0 and I are considered early melanoma as the tumors are localized. With stage 0 melanoma the tumors are noninvasive. They have not gone below the surface of your skin. During some Stage I, it is possible the tumors have gone below the skin but are small and growing at a very slow pace. With stage II, the tumors remain localized but are larger. They may be ulcerated or have an increased rate of growth.
Advanced Melanoma Stages
When melanoma has progressed to stage III, significant changes have occurred in your body. At this stage, the tumor has spread to your lymph nodes. It may have also spread to the skin between the tumor and the closest lymph node. To determine this stage, a biopsy is required.
Within this stage, it is possible for the melanoma to be in-transit or satellite. This means it has gone into your skin or tissue for a distance exceeding 2 centimeters. It is possible for this to be so small it can only be detected using a microscope. When your melanoma has reached stage IV, it has grown in your lymph nodes as well as internal organs. It is common for it to reach the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, bone as well as liver. Elevated serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels are used to determine the advancement of the melanoma.
Stage 1 Treatment
A common treatment at stage 1 is surgery that removes the melanoma and a certain amount of normal skin that surrounds it. The amount of normal skin taken away will be determined by the location and thickness of the melanoma tumor. The amount of skin removed will determine the difficulty of healing. Taking more skin has shown it doesn’t enable people to live longer. If melanoma cells are located on a lymph node, then removal of lymph nodes close to the cancer will be advised. When this is done, some physicians may also advise a treatment involving interferon.
Stage II Treatment
A wider removal of the melanoma tumor is often performed. The removal of lymph nodes near the melanoma may be highly recommended. After surgery, a physician may recommend you also have interferon treatment. Certain drugs may be recommended to decrease the chance of the melanoma returning.
Stage III Treatment
This will require surgery. A wide area around the primary tumor will be removed as well as all nearby lymph nodes. Adjuvant therapy that involves interferon can help prevent some melanoma from returning. Radiation therapy in the areas where lymph nodes were removed will be advised. This is very important if the lymph nodes contained cancer. It is possible a patient will benefit from immunotherapy or chemotherapy. Some respond well to a combination of both therapies. It is possible stage III melanoma may not able to be cured with current treatments.
Stage IV Treatment
It is very difficult to cure anyone who has stage IV melanoma. Treatment for metastatic melanoma at this point consists of various options. The cancer has spread a number of areas all over your body. Large tumors on the skin or enlarged lymph nodes can be removed or treated with radiation therapy. Some internal organs can also be removed. Patients may be given everything from immunotherapy to radiation, targeted therapy, chemotherapy and more. Certain immunotherapy drugs such as nivolumab or pembrolizumab may be recommended. Metastasis melanomas are difficult to treat, and a physician may recommend you consider taking part in a clinical trial. There are people with stage IV melanoma who do respond positively to treatment. They are able to survive for a number of years after their initial diagnosis.