What Are The Symptoms Of Melanoma That Has Spread
Melanoma that has spread from the skin to other areas of the body is known as metastatic melanoma. However, since melanoma often first presents itself as an abnormal mole, many people with this malignancy can receive a diagnosis before the cancer has spread. This mole may be asymmetrical, have an uneven border, have an inconsistent color, be large or change over time. A melanoma may also appear as a sore or itchy bump, a tender nodule or a patch of skin that is scaly or bleeding. In some cases, early signs of melanoma are not present. For example, if the cancer starts in a mucous membrane rather than on the skin, a mole may not be present.
How Can You Tell If A Spot Is Cancerous
Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole. Color that spreads from the border of a spot into surrounding skin. Itching, pain, or tenderness in an area that doesn’t go away or goes away then comes back. Changes in the surface of a mole: oozing, scaliness, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump.
How Common Is Melanoma
Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of all skin cancers, but causes the great majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Its one of the most common cancers in young people under 30, especially in young women.
Melanoma incidence has dramatically increased over the past 30 years. Its widely accepted that increasing levels of ultraviolet exposure are one of the main reasons for this rapid rise in the number of melanoma cases.
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Mouse Models Mimic Metastasis Of Human Melanoma
Metastasis is a highly inefficient process in that the vast majority of cancer cells that try to migrate die before they ever have an opportunity to form a tumor, Dr. Morrison said.
Dr. Morrisons team found previously that one factor limiting the survival of melanoma cells circulating in the blood is that the cells experience a high level of oxidative stress. Oxidative stressan imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the bodycauses chemical reactions that can damage proteins, DNA, and lipids in cells and disrupt normal cell processes. However, precisely how oxidative stress kills circulating melanoma cells was not known.
For their studies, the team used a mouse model of metastasis created by transplanting melanoma cells from humans beneath the skin of specially bred mice with weakened immune systems. These mice were used to avoid having the transplanted human cells seen as foreign and attacked by the immune system. The team also used a second mouse model created by transplanting mouse melanoma cells into mice with normal immune systems.
Comparing these two mouse models let the researchers control for potential effects of the immune system on the spread of melanoma, Dr. Salnikow explained.
The study was supported in part by NCIs Patient-Derived Models of Cancer program, which promotes the development of animal models that more closely mirror how tumor cells behave in humans.
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How Quickly Does Melanoma Spread
Melanoma can grow very quickly. It can become life-threatening in as little as 6 weeks and, if untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma can appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun. Nodular melanoma is a highly dangerous form of melanoma that looks different from common melanomas.Read more
How Skin Cancer Spreads-Mayo Clinic
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What Are The Symptoms Of Nodular Melanoma
Most skin cancer screening guidelines tell you to check for the ABCDE symptoms of skin cancer. But there are additional warning signs that can alert you to possible nodular melanoma.
Also, unlike some other types of skin cancer, nodular melanomas typically begin as a new growth, rather than developing within a preexisting mole.
Melanoma Can Go Away On Its Own
Melanoma on the skin can spontaneously regress, or begin to, without any treatment. Thats because the bodys immune system is able launch an assault on the disease thats strong enough to spur its retreat. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens only after the disease has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, bones, or brain.
The observation that the immune system can cause melanoma to regress was one of the key insights that led to the development of immunotherapy as a successful treatment for melanoma, explains Dr. Marghoob. The thinking went, if the immune system can get rid of melanoma on its own, there must also be a way to enhance the immune systems natural ability to fight melanoma. This eventually led researchers to develop drugs designed to enhance the immune systems ability to successfully fight melanoma that has spread.
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What Causes Nodular Melanoma
Nodular melanoma happens when melanocyte cells in your skin mutate and become cancerous. Melanocytes are the cells in your skin that make melanin. This is the pigment that gives your skin its color.
Sometimes, these cells can mutate after exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The sun is by far the most significant source of UV radiation, but it can also come from other sources, such as lasers and tanning beds.
If you get too much exposure to UV radiation, it can damage the DNA of your skin cells. This can lead to mutations in the DNA, causing the cells to grow out of control.
These mutations can lead to all types of skin cancer, including nodular melanoma. More research needs to be done to determine what causes specific types of skin cancer to form.
Exposure to UV light can cause mutations in skin cells and lead to multiple types of skin cancer. Scientists dont know exactly why DNA mutations to the melanocyte cells sometimes cause nodular melanoma and not other melanomas.
However, there are some risk factors that may increase the risk of nodular melanoma:
What Is Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is a disease that begins in the cells of the skin. The area of skin with the cancer is often called a lesion. There are several types of skin cancer . Melanoma is the most serious. But there are others that are known as nonmelanoma skin cancer. These include:
Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are by far the most common.
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Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluids and fights infection.
The most common symptom if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes is that they feel hard or swollen. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck area can make it hard to swallow.
Cancer cells can also stop lymph fluid from draining away. This might lead to swelling in the neck or face due to fluid buildup in that area. The swelling is called lymphoedema.
Ive Been Diagnosed With Melanomawhat Happens Next
Doctors use the TNM system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer to begin the staging process. Its a classification based on three key factors:
T stands for the extent of the original tumor, its thickness or how deep it has grown and whether it has ulcerated.
What Is Breslow depth?
Breslow depth is a measurement from the surface of the skin to the deepest component of the melanoma.
Tumor thickness: Known as Breslow thickness or Breslow depth, this is a significant factor in predicting how far a melanoma has advanced. In general, a thinner Breslow depth indicates a smaller chance that the tumor has spread and a better outlook for treatment success. The thicker the melanoma measures, the greater its chance of spreading.
Tumor ulceration: Ulceration is a breakdown of the skin on top of the melanoma. Melanomas with ulceration are more serious because they have a greater risk of spreading, so they are staged higher than tumors without ulceration.
N indicates whether or not the cancer has already spread to nearby lymph nodes. The N category also includes in-transit tumors that have spread beyond the primary tumor toward the local lymph nodes but have not yet reached the lymph nodes.
M represents spread or metastasis to distant lymph nodes or skin sites and organs such as the lungs or brain.
After TNM categories are identified, the overall stage number is assigned. A lower stage number means less progression of the disease.
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How Does The Doctor Know I Have Melanoma
A new spot on your skin or a spot thats changing in size, shape, or color may be a warning sign of melanoma. If you have any of these changes, have your skin checked by a doctor.
The doctor will ask you questions about when the spot on your skin first showed up and if it has changed in size or the way it looks. The rest of your skin will be checked. During the exam your doctor will check the size, shape, color and texture of any skin changes. If signs are pointing to melanoma, more tests will be done.
Its A Fact That Melanoma Can Be Well Under Six Millimeters And In Fact Can Be Only One Millimeter In Diameter
The ABCD rules for melanoma certainly do not apply to all such skin cancers.
Some dermatologists even refer to very small melanomas as micromelanomas, meaning, they are much smaller than a pencil eraser .
Time It Takes for a Tiny Melanoma to Grow to Two Millimeters
A tumor that does not arise from a pre-existing mole doesnt grow from one cancer cell to two millimeters overnight.
It is completely unknown how long it takes for melanoma to achieve a size of two mm, says Dr. Steven Musick, MD, a board certified dermatologist who runs Musick Dermatology, LLC, in Swansea, IL, which provides state-of-the-art medical and surgical care for all disorders of the skin, hair and nails.
Though there are, on record, serial images of progressing superficial spreading melanomas, these do not tell how long it took for the tumor to get to two millimeters.
Instead, such images show increase in lateral growth usually from a starting point of over two millimeters, e.g., from three to five millimeters in 12 months.
Prior imaging records are not available because the patient didnt begin noticing the lesion until it was over two millimeters.
And even if, by chance, a 0.2 mm spot was photographed, and looked benign, and then 12 months later it was two millimeters and looked suspicious, and a biopsy confirmed melanoma, this one particular example would not speak for melanoma in general.
The fastest growing melanoma is the nodular type. It is not flat, hence its name.
Steven Musick, MD
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How Dangerous Is Melanoma Its All A Matter Of Timing
Skin cancer holds the unfortunate distinction of being the worlds most common cancer. Though its prevalence around the globe is disturbing, there is some good news: When caught early, skin cancers are almost always curable.
You might already know that catching a cancer early means a more favorable prognosis. But it can be difficult to comprehend just how big a difference early detection makes with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma should never be underestimated, but treating a tumor early rather than after it is allowed to progress could be lifesaving.
Leland Fay, 46, understands better than most the seriousness of this distinction. When the Monument, Colorado native was diagnosed with melanoma in 2012, he was given a bleak prognosis due to the advanced stage of the tumor it had already reached stage IV.
Leland hadnt thought much of the little black mole on his head a few months earlier, when a dermatologist froze it off during a routine exam. But the mole resurfaced, bigger than it had been originally. After a biopsy and imaging tests, doctors told Leland it was melanoma, and that it had already spread. He could have as few as six weeks to live.
To fully comprehend the significance of timing, it can be helpful to understand exactly what happens to a melanoma when it advances to a later stage, and what it means when a melanoma spreads beyond the original tumor site.
Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma
The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.
This can happen anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women.
Melanomas are uncommon in areas that are protected from sun exposure, such as the buttocks and the scalp.
In most cases, melanomas have an irregular shape and are more than 1 colour.
The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed.
Look out for a mole that gradually changes shape, size or colour.
Superficial spreading melanoma are the most common type of melanoma in the UK.
Theyre more common in people with pale skin and freckles, and much less common in people with darker skin.
They initially tend to grow outwards rather than downwards, so they do not pose a problem.
But if they grow downwards into the deeper layers of skin, they can spread to other parts of the body.
You should see a GP if you have a mole thats getting bigger, particularly if it has an irregular edge.
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How Serious Is My Cancer
If you have melanoma, the doctor will want to find out how far it has spread. This is called staging. Your doctor will want to find out the stage of your cancer to help decide what type of treatment is best for you.
The stage describes the growth or spread of the melanoma through the skin. It also tells if it has spread to other parts of your body.
Your cancer can be stage 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4. The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, like stage 4, means a more serious cancer that has spread beyond the skin. Be sure to ask the doctor about the cancer stage and what it means for you.
Taking Care Of Yourself
Hearing that your cancer has spread is scary, but a lot of research is underway to find new treatments. And there are treatments available to try to stop the disease from spreading, so you can live longer.
Its important to have support and to talk about your fears and feelings, too. Your doctor can help you find a cancer support group.
These tips may help you feel better during melanoma treatment:
- If you lose your appetite, eat small amounts of food every 2 to 3 hours instead of bigger meals. A dietitian can give you other tips on nutrition and eating during your cancer treatment. Ask your doctor for a referral.
- Exercise can help you feel better overall and fight fatigue. But listen to your body, and balance rest and activity.
- Get the kind of emotional support thats right for you. It could be from family, friends, your cancer support group, or a religious group.
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How Do You Tell If You Have Nodular Melanoma
The characteristics of nodular melanoma include:
Red Flag #: Headaches Or Visual Changes
Just like the liver, not everyone will notice symptoms of melanoma spreading to the brain. But when symptoms do show up, its usually in the form of headaches, problems with eyesight, paralysis on one side of the body, or seizures. If someone simply has a headache, that doesnt mean they have advanced stage melanoma, Dr. Yushak says. But if its a headache thats not going away after a week, and you never have headaches, then thats something that definitely needs to be checked out.
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Skin Exam And Physical
If youve been diagnosed with melanoma, youve already had a skin biopsy. This biopsy was taken when you had part of the suspicious spot removed. After it was removed, a doctor looked at the spot under a microscope to find out if it contained cancer cells. This is currently the only way to tell if someone has skin cancer.
After getting the diagnosis, the next step is to get a complete skin exam and physical.
During the physical, your dermatologist will feel your lymph nodes. This is where melanoma usually goes when it begins to spread. It usually travels to the lymph nodes closest to the melanoma.
If there is a risk the cancer could have spread, your dermatologist may recommend that you have a lymph node biopsy. If a sentinel lymph node biopsy is recommended, it can be performed at the time of your surgery for melanoma.
After the skin exam and physical, your dermatologist may recommend testing, such as a CAT scan, MRI, or a blood test. These can also help detect spread.
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Where Does Melanoma Spread To
Unfortunately, melanoma can potentially to many places in the body. One of the reasons melanoma is so serious is that it can get into the lymph nodes and the bloodstream, and spread from there to the vital organs. Consequently, cancer that develops in a mole on your back, for example, can migrate to your brain, lungs, bones, liver, or other organs and areas.
As to the question of, Where does melanoma spread to first? that depends on a variety of factors including where it develops initially.
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