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Can I Survive Stage 4 Melanoma

What Is Stage Iv Cancer

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Stage IV cancer is the most severe form of cancer in which cancer has spread to a distant part of the body from its origin. Thus, testicular cancer may have spread to the lungs and bones, thyroid cancer may have spread to the brain, and so on. It is also known as metastatic or advanced disease.

The staging system often used for most types of cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system. In these staging systems, three types of key information are used.

  • T : It refers to the size of the original tumor.
  • N : It describes whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
  • M : It refers to the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body.

A number or the letter X is allocated to each factor. A higher number means the cancer is advanced. For instance, a T1 score refers to a smaller tumor than a T2 score. The letter X indicates that information could not be assessed. M1 indicates that cancer has spread to a distant part of the body.

The physician combines T, N, and M results and other factors specific to cancer to determine the stage of cancer for each person. Most cancer types have four stages: stages I-IV, with stages I and IV being the least severe and most severe forms of cancer, respectively. Some types of cancer also have a stage 0 .

Could I Get A Second Cancer After Melanoma Treatment

People whove had melanoma can still get other cancers. In fact, melanoma survivors are at higher risk for getting some other types of cancer:

  • Another skin cancer, including melanoma
  • Salivary gland cancer
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

The most common second cancer in survivors of skin melanoma is another skin cancer.

There are steps you can take to lower your risk of getting another cancer and stay as healthy as possible. For example, its important to limit your exposure to UV rays, which can increase your risk for many types of skin cancer. Its also important to stay away from tobacco products. Smoking increases the risk of many cancers.

To help maintain good health, melanoma survivors should also:

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight
  • Keep physically active and limit the time you spend sitting or lying down
  • Follow a healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limits or avoids red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods
  • Not drink alcohol. If you do drink, have no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men

These steps may also lower the risk of other health problems.

Melanoma survivors should also follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer, such as those for colorectal and lung cancer. Most experts dont recommend any other specific tests to look for second cancers unless you have symptoms.

Survival Rates By Disease Extent

A second method estimates survival rates based on the extent of cancer in the body. This is the approach used by the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. The SEER system classifies cancer in one of three broader categories:

  • Localized: Cancer limited to the lungs
  • Regional: Cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes or structures
  • Distant: Metastatic cancer

Under the SEER classification system, distant disease and stage 4 cancer are synonymous.

The one drawback to the SEER approach is that stage 4a and 4b lung cancer are melded into one category. This generalized approach not only returns a much lower five-year survival estimate but fails to reflect the wide variability in stage 4 survival rates, particularly in people with limited metastases.

SEER Stage at Diagnosis

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Survival For All Stages Of Melanoma

Generally for people with melanoma in England:

  • almost all people will survive their melanoma for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed
  • around 90 out of every 100 people will survive their melanoma for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  • more than 85 out of every 100 people will survive their melanoma for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed

Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England, 2019Office for National Statistics

These figures are for people diagnosed in England between 2013 and 2017.

These statistics are for net survival. Net survival estimates the number of people who survive their cancer rather than calculating the number of people diagnosed with cancer who are still alive. In other words, it is the survival of cancer patients after taking into account that some people would have died from other causes if they had not had cancer.

What Are The Survival Rates For Melanoma

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Melanoma can be treated most effectively in its early stages when it is still confined to the top layer of the skin . The deeper a melanoma penetrates into the lower layers of the skin , the greater the risk that it could or has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. In recent years, clinical breakthroughs have led to new treatments that continue to improve the prognosis for people with advanced melanoma.

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What Are The Prognosis And Survival Rates For Metastatic Melanoma

The prognosis for thin melanomas completely removed by surgery remains quite good although patients require long-term monitoring to watch for both new melanomas as well as evidence of late recurrence and previously undiagnosed metastasis of the original one. Survival rates for melanoma, especially for metastatic melanoma, vary widely according to many factors, including the patient’s age, overall health, location of the tumor, particular findings on the examination of the biopsy, and the depth and stage. Survival statistics are generally based on five-year survival. Much of the success reported for the targeted therapies focus on “disease free” time because, in many cases, the actual five-year survival is not affected. It is hoped that combination therapy with two or more agents targeting different stages of the melanoma cell cycle will change that.

  • For stage 1 , five-year survival is near 100%.
  • For stage 2 , five-year survival is 80%-90%.
  • For stage 3 , five-year survival is around 50%.
  • For stage 4 , five-year survival is 10%-25% depending upon sex and other demographic factors.

Braf & Mek Kinase Inhibitors

The BRAF and MEK genes are known to play a role in cell growth, and mutations of these genes are common in several types of cancer. Approximately half of all melanomas carry a specific BRAF mutation known as V600E. This mutation produces an abnormal version of the BRAF kinase that stimulates cancer growth. Some melanomas carry another mutation known as V600K. BRAF and MEK inhibitors block the activity of the V600E and V600K mutations respectively.1-5

Given the success of immunotherapy physicians have debated whether patients with a BRAF mutation should be first treated with BRAF-MEK Inhibitor and save immunotherapy for treatment of a recurrence or proceed immediately to immunotherapy?

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Ask Your Doctor For A Survivorship Care Plan

Talk with your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan for you. This plan might include:

  • A suggested schedule for follow-up exams and tests
  • A schedule for other tests you might need in the future, such as early detection tests for other types of cancer, or tests to look for long-term health effects from your cancer or its treatment
  • A list of possible late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, including what to watch for and when you should contact your doctor
  • Diet and physical activity suggestions

What To Expect As A Caregiver

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A person who provides care for someone with a chronic or terminal illness may be their spouse, family member, or friend, or they may provide paid assistance.

Being a caregiver can be physically demanding and emotionally challenging. It can also be rewarding to see the difference that providing care makes to the persons life.

A caregiver may also find that they are providing emotional support, not only to the person whom they are caring for, but also to the persons family and friends. This can be additionally challenging. Caregivers may feel anxious, depressed, or emotionally exhausted. It is important that they recieve care and support themselves.

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A Community Of Support

Throughout his ordeal, Tims friends have actively promoted a social media campaign offering support.

People came out of nowhere for me. They donated to a GoFundMe account, sent groceries and reached out in ways that mean so much. It was hard to be negative or scared with so many people having my back, he says.

As a result, Tim says he tries to volunteer at and support as many charities and fundraisers as he can.

Kansas City took care of me, I want to give back, he says.

The Kansas City resident said that hes gained a renewed sense of community from his experience, some great new celebrity friends and a better perspective on his life.

Cancer doesnt care who you are. In a weird way, its a beautiful thing. It doesnt judge us, so why should we judge others? Tim confides. My problems are small in comparison to others who are suffering.

Tim doesnt know what the future holds. He hopes its positive. But he refuses to waste whatever time he has left. Ive tried to keep things light and fun. Im a jokester, and that hasnt changed, he says. In between treatments, he catches Royals games as often as he can, hangs out with friends and spends time with his dog, Dexter.

Im still here,” he says. “And, I plan to fight to keep it that way.

Systemic Treatment Of Stage Iv Melanoma

Systemic therapy is any treatment directed at destroying cancer cells throughout the body and is necessary in the management of stage IV melanoma because melanoma cells have already broken away from the primary cancer and traveled through the lymph and blood system to other locations in the body. Newer precision cancer medicines and immunotherapy drugs are the current standard of care because they delay the time to cancer recurrence and prolong survival. Currently, immunotherapy treatment regimens appear superior to most “targeted” medications possibly due to their increased effectiveness in treating cancer that has spread to the brain. Patients should discuss the role of genomic testing for determining the best therapy to be used. Systemic therapies commonly used in the treatment of Melanoma include:

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What To Ask Your Doctor About Stage Iv Melanoma

When your doctor tells you that you have Stage IV melanoma, it can be frightening and overwhelming. But it is important to use the time with all of your doctors to learn as much about your cancer as you can. Your doctors will provide you important information about your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options.

It is often helpful to bring a friend or family member with you to your doctor appointments. This person can lend moral support, ask questions, and take notes.

The following questions are those you may want to ask your doctors. Some of the questions are for your medical oncologist, some are for your surgical oncologist, and some for your dermatologist. Remember, it is ALWAYS okay to ask your doctor to repeat or clarify something s/he has said so that you can better understand it. You may find it helpful to print out these questions and bring them with you to your next appointment.

How Does Immunotherapy Work

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Ipilimumab and nivolumab both stop some cancers from hiding and allow the immune system to attack.

They interrupt the chemical signals that cancers use to put the brakes on the immune system.

Nivolumab blocks the off-switch on white blood cells called PD-1. Ipilimumab blocks a similar switch called CTLA-4.

It is described as taking the brakes off the immune system.

“By giving these drugs together you are effectively taking two brakes off the immune system rather than one so that the immune system is able to recognise tumours it wasn’t previously recognising and react to that and destroy them,” Prof Larkin said.

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Where Do These Numbers Come From

The American Cancer Society relies on information from the SEER* database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute , to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.

The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for melanoma skin cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers by AJCC TNM stages . Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:

  • Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread beyond the skin where it started.
  • Regional: The cancer has spread beyond the skin where it started to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
  • Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, or skin on other parts of the body.

You May Have A Genetic Mutation

Its very likely that your melanoma tumor will have a DNA mutation. These mutations turn off tumor-suppressor genes, allowing cancers to grow out of control, according to the American Cancer Society. Discovering which mutation you have through genetic profiling can help your doctor determine the best course of treatment. Research has shown that about 50% of melanomas contain the BRAF mutation, while others may contain MEK mutations or the less common C-KIT mutation. Most people will only have only one of these mutations.

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Stage Iv Melanoma Survivor: An Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Saved My Life

In 2006, I didnt have any of the typical signs of melanoma: just a small bump on the top of my head behind my hairline. After a biopsy determined it was cancerous, a surgical oncologist removed it, along with some adjacent lymph nodes on both sides of my neck. After that, I enjoyed three years of being cancer-free. I really thought Id dodged a bullet, because the tumor was removed with clear margins and none of the nearby lymph nodes had any signs of cancer.

But three years later, a chest X-ray showed shadowing and spots on my lungs. The melanoma had spread. I had three separate lung surgeries over an 18-month period to remove new growths, but the cancer kept returning. By 2011, I had tumors on my lungs, pancreas and liver. One was also growing behind my heart. My oncologist told me there was nothing more he could do. Not being satisfied with that answer, I began to search for alternatives.

Why I participated in an immunotherapy clinical trial

I wanted to give myself the absolute best chance for survival, so I sought out the best place for cancer treatment. MD Anderson is known for its advanced treatment options. I dont think its a coincidence that its been ranked No. 1 in cancer treatment year after year.

At MD Anderson, I met with my doctor. After agreeing on a plan of action, he ordered tests to see if I qualified for any kind of targeted therapy. Unfortunately, I was not a good match, so the waiting and search for a viable option continued.

What Do Patients Say

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Pam Smith, 67, from Royal Tunbridge Wells, started on the trial in January 2014.

She was “devastated” when she was told her cancer was untreatable and says she “wouldn’t have stood a chance” without immunotherapy.

She had treatment once every two weeks for four months, but the drugs gave her such severe diarrhoea as a side-effect that she could no longer continue.

Her tumour halved in size after treatment and has not grown since. Pam now feels “brilliant”.

She told the BBC: “I might not have seen my grandchildren.

“It’s just over five years now since it happened and my youngest grandchild was six at the weekend.

“I wouldn’t have seem him grow up and the other grandchildren as well.”

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Can I Lower My Risk Of The Melanoma Progressing Or Coming Back

If you have melanoma, you probably want to know if there are things you can do that might lower your risk of the cancer coming back, or of getting a new skin cancer.

At this time, not enough is known about melanoma to say for sure if there are things you can do that will be helpful. We do know that people who have had melanoma are at higher risk for developing another melanoma or other type of skin cancer. Because of this, its very important to limit your exposure to UV rays and to continue to examine your skin every month for signs of melanoma coming back or possible new skin cancers. Skin cancers that are found early are typically much easier to treat than those found at a later stage.

Adopting healthy behaviors such as not smoking, eating well, being active, and staying at a healthy weight might help as well, but no one knows for sure. However, we do know that these types of changes can have positive effects on your health that can extend beyond your risk of melanoma or other cancers.

Will Immunotherapy Be The End Of Cancer

Immunotherapy has been called a great hopeand a great hype. As a patient facing devastating odds, our writer bet her life on it.

In September of 2011, I did the worst Google search of my life. A year after a seemingly manageable melanoma diagnosis and surgery, I learned that my cancer had appeared again, this time moving aggressively into my lungs and soft tissue. Naturally, the first thing I did was open my laptop and type “stage 4 melanoma life expectancy.” Then I cried. The results were terrifying.

On the website of MD Anderson, one of the most prestigious cancer centers in the world, I found a January 2011 article on metastatic melanoma. There was a telling quote from Michael Davies, MD, of the centers Melanoma Medical Oncology Department: “The average survival for patients with stage 4 metastatic melanoma is 6 to 10 months, and this hasnt changed for 30 years.”

I still get chills when I recall my prognosis not so very long ago, a prognosis that looked likely to wipe my presence from my two young daughters childhoods. Yet a month after my diagnosis, I became one of the first dozen patients in a new clinical trial at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, receiving a type of treatment known as immunotherapy, which harnesses the bodys natural defenses to fight cancer. Three months later, I was declared cancer-free, and I have been ever since. I had not only been granted a futureI had seen a glimpse of it. Welcome to the next era of medicine.

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