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How To Tell If Skin Cancer Has Spread

What Is Metastatic Melanoma

How do you determine if the melanoma has spread?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. When it spreads to other places in your body, it’s called metastatic, or advanced. You may also hear your doctor refer to it as stage IV melanoma.

Melanoma often spreads to:

Although in many cases metastatic melanoma canât be cured, treatments and support can help you live longer and better. Doctors have therapies that have greatly increased survival rates. And researchers are working to find new medications that can do even more.

Remember: You still have control over the decisions you make about your treatment and your life. It’s important to have people you can talk to about your plans, your fears, and your feelings. So find support and learn about your treatment options. That will help you make the most of your life.

What Are Some Of The Lesser

Some of the less common skin cancers include the following:

Kaposi sarcoma is a rare cancer most commonly seen in people who have weakened immune systems, those who have human immunodeficiency virus /AIDS and people who are taking immunosuppressant medications who have undergone organ or bone marrow transplant.

Signs and symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma are:

  • Blue, black, pink, red or purple flat or bumpy blotches or patches on your arms, legs and face. Lesions might also appear in your mouth, nose and throat.

Merkel cell carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cancer that begins at the base of the epidermis, the top layer of your skin. This cancer starts in Merkel cells, which share of the features of nerve cells and hormone-making cells and are very close to the nerve ending in your skin. Merkel cell cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body than squamous or basal cell skin cancer.

Signs and symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma are:

  • A small reddish or purplish bump or lump on sun-exposed areas of skin.
  • Lumps are fast-growing and sometimes open up as ulcers or sores.

Sebaceous gland carcinoma

Sebaceous gland carcinoma is a rare, aggressive cancer that usually appears on your eyelid. This cancer tends to develop around your eyes because theres a large number of sebaceous glands in that area.

Signs and symptoms of sebaceous gland carcinoma are:

  • A painless, round, firm, bump or lump on or slightly inside your upper or lower eyelid.

Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans

Red Flag #: Abdominal Pain And Tenderness

Early on, there may be no noticeable symptoms that melanoma has spread to the liver. When symptoms do show up, they commonly include an enlarged, hard, or tender liver and pain in the upper right area of your abdomen, just below your ribs. Other signs cancer has spread to the liver are similar to symptoms of liver disease: fluid buildup in the belly and yellowing of the skin and eyes .

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Red Flag #: Swollen Lymph Nodes

If melanoma spreads, it often goes to the lymph nodes first, says Melinda L. Yushak, M.D., assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. The cancer cells will first travel to the nodes closest to the original tumor, she says. Lymph nodes are located throughout your entire body, but large clusters are found in the neck, underarms, chest, abdomen, and groin. If the cancer has made its way to the lymph nodes, it usually wont be painful, but theyll feel swollen or even hard to the touch, Dr. Zaba says.

Where Else Does Melanoma Spread To

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When melanoma advances to stage 3, it means the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes or the skin around the primary tumor and lymph nodes. In stage 4, the cancer has moved to other areas far beyond the lymph nodes, like your internal organs. The most common places melanoma spreads to are the:

  • lungs
  • brain
  • stomach, or abdomen

These growths will cause different symptoms, depending on which areas it has spread to. For example, you may feel breathless or constantly cough if the cancer has spread to your lungs. Or you may have a long-term headache that wont go away if it has spread to your brain. Sometimes the symptoms for stage 4 melanoma may not appear for many years after the original tumor was removed.

Talk to your doctor if youre feeling new pains and aches or symptoms. Theyll be able to help diagnose the cause and recommend treatment options.

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How Is Skin Cancer Treated

Treatment depends upon the stage of cancer. Stages of skin cancer range from stage 0 to stage IV. The higher the number, the more cancer has spread.

Sometimes a biopsy alone can remove all the cancer tissue if the cancer is small and limited to your skins surface only. Other common skin cancer treatments, used alone or in combination, include:

Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze skin cancer. The dead cells slough off after treatment. Precancerous skin lesions, called actinic keratosis, and other small, early cancers limited to the skins top layer can be treated with this method.

Excisional surgery

This surgery involves removing the tumor and some surrounding healthy skin to be sure all cancer has been removed.

Mohs surgery

With this procedure, the visible, raised area of the tumor is removed first. Then your surgeon uses a scalpel to remove a thin layer of skin cancer cells. The layer is examined under a microscope immediately after removal. Additional layers of tissue continue to be removed, one layer at a time, until no more cancer cells are seen under the microscope.

Mohs surgery removes only diseased tissue, saving as much surrounding normal tissue as possible. Its most often used to treat basal cell and squamous cell cancers and near sensitive or cosmetically important areas, such as eyelids, ears, lips, forehead, scalp, fingers or genital area.

Curettage and electrodesiccation

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy

Types Of Skin Cancer In Dogs

Skin cancer is one of the most common skin ailments our furry friends may face. Our pups face greater exposure to the sun, as well as environmental toxins generally. Its thought one reason growths are common on a dogs lower legs, paws, or nail bed, for example, is due to repeated contact with pesticides.

More than half the growths found on a dogs skin are benign and wont develop into a health problem. They can be dangerous enough, however, that they are generally worth getting checked.

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When Metastatic Cancer Can No Longer Be Controlled

If you have been told your cancer can no longer be controlled, you and your loved ones may want to discuss end-of-life care. Whether or not you choose to continue treatment to shrink the cancer or control its growth, you can always receive palliative care to control the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Information on coping with and planning for end-of-life care is available in the Advanced Cancer section of this site.

How Do You Treat Stage 4 Melanoma

How to Know if it is Skin Cancer?

The good news is that even stage 4 melanoma can be treated. The sooner the cancer is found, the sooner it can be removed and the higher your chances are for recovery. Stage 4 melanoma also has the most treatment options, but these options depend on:

  • where the cancer is
  • how advanced the cancer has become
  • your age and overall health

How you respond to treatment also affects your treatment options. The five standard treatments for melanoma are:

  • surgery: to remove the primary tumor and affected lymph nodes
  • chemotherapy: a drug treatment to stop growth of cancer cells
  • radiation therapy: the application of high-energy X-rays to inhibit growth and cancer cells
  • immunotherapy: treatment to boost your immune system
  • targeted therapy: the use of drugs or other substances to attack cancer drugs

Other treatments may also depend on where the cancer has spread to. Your doctor will discuss your options with you to help map out a treatment plan.

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What Skin Cancer Looks Like

Skin cancer appears on the body in many different ways. It can look like a:

  • Changing mole or mole that looks different from your others

  • Dome-shaped growth

  • Non-healing sore or sore that heals and returns

  • Brown or black streak under a nail

It can also show up in other ways.

To find skin cancer on your body, you dont have to remember a long list. Dermatologists sum it up this way. Its time to see a dermatologist if you notice a spot on your skin that:

  • Differs from the others

  • Itches

  • Bleeds

To make it easy for you to check your skin, the AAD created the Body Mole Map. Youll find everything you need to know on a single page. Illustrations show you how to examine your skin and what to look for. Theres even place to record what your spots look like. Youll find this page, which you can print, at Body Mole Map.

What Is Metastatic Cancer

Cancer that spreads from where it started to a distant part of the body is called metastatic cancer. For many types of cancer, it is also called stage IV cancer. The process by which cancer cells spread to other parts of the body is called metastasis.

When observed under a microscope and tested in other ways, metastatic cancer cells have features like that of the primary cancer and not like the cells in the place where the metastatic cancer is found. This is how doctors can tell that it is cancer that has spread from another part of the body.

Metastatic cancer has the same name as the primary cancer. For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung is called metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as stage IV breast cancer, not as lung cancer.

Sometimes when people are diagnosed with metastatic cancer, doctors cannot tell where it started. This type of cancer is called cancer of unknown primary origin, or CUP. See the Carcinoma of Unknown Primary page for more information.

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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.

They’re 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 that’s getting bigger, particularly if it has an irregular edge.

What Does Skin Cancer In Dogs Look Like

How to tell if YOU have skin cancer from irregular moles ...

Most types of skin cancer will start out looking like some sort of growth or wart. Most often, they will be quite small and may appear suddenly. They can be tough to spot under fur, and you may not notice them initially. You are more likely to feel them as lumps or bumps.

Cancer may also appear as a sore, though that is more likely as the cancer grows.

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Complementary And Alternative Treatments

It’s common for people with cancer to seek out complementary or alternative treatments. When used alongside your conventional cancer treatment, some of these therapies can make you feel better and improve your quality of life. Others may not be so helpful and in some cases may be harmful.

It is important to tell all your healthcare professionals about any complementary medicines you are taking. Never stop taking your conventional treatment without consulting your doctor first.

All treatments can have side effects. These days, new treatments are available that can help to make many side effects much less severe than they were in the past.

The Importance Of Annual Skin Cancer Checks

Annual skin cancer screenings are an essential tool that we use at Cochise Oncology to identify potential skin cancer lesions early. These assessments can give you peace of mind and identify potential cancer candidates.

A skin cancer screening is a physical examination performed by oncologists to determine the health of your skin. Doctors will look for large, asymmetric moles or skin imperfections that indicate possible cancer. If they discover a skin imperfection requiring closer inspection, they may take a small sample of tissue and send it to the lab for further investigation.

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How Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treated

The treatment options depend on the stage and type of skin cancer. For localized cancers, the following treatment may be used

  • Curettage and electrodessication : Scraping the cancerous ulcer with a curette and then searing the base of the cancer with an electric needle is one treatment method.
  • Laser therapy: Laser treatment may be an option for very superficial skin lesions. It is used to burn down cancer cells.
  • Freezing: Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and kill the cancer cells. Freezing might be done after using a scraping instrument to remove the surface of the skin cancer.
  • : The cancer cells are sensitized to light with chemicals and then exposed to light.

The most common treatment in large cancers include

  • Excision: The removal of the tumor.
  • Moh surgery: The removal of the tumor layer by layer and examination of each layer under a microscope until no cancer cells are seen.
  • Surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes as well as healthy lymph nodes in more invasive cancers. Complications of surgery include bleeding, infection or pneumonia.
  • Radiation therapy:Radiation of high frequency destroys the cancerous cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses medications to kill cancerous cells.

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Are All Moles Cancerous

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Most moles are not cancerous. Some moles are present at birth, others develop up to about age 40. Most adults have between 10 and 40 moles.

In rare cases, a mole can turn into melanoma. If you have more than 50 moles, you have an increased chance of developing melanoma.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It needs as much attention as any other health concern. What may seem like an innocent cosmetic imperfection, may not be. Performing regular skin self-checks is important for everyone and is especially important if you are a person at increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is also color-blind. If you are a person of color, skin cancer can happen to you. Check your skin every month for any changes in skin spots or any new skin growths. Consider taking skin selfies so you can easily see if spots change over time. If youre a person of color, be sure to check areas more prone to cancer development, such as the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, your genital area and under your nails. Takes steps to protect your skin. Always wear sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day of the year. Wear UV-A/UV-B protective sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeve shirts and pants. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin check.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/19/2021.

References

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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.

Why Does Skin Cancer Occur In More Non

Scientists dont fully know why people of skin with color develop cancer in non-sun-exposed areas, such as their hands and feet. They think that the sun is less of a factor though. However, dermatologists still see plenty of UV sunlight-induced melanomas and squamous cell skin cancer in people of color, in skin tones ranging from fair to very dark.

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When Should I Call My Doctor

You should have a skin examination by a doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A personal history of skin cancer or atypical moles .
  • A family history of skin cancer.
  • A history of intense sun exposure as a young person and painful or blistering sunburns.
  • New or numerous large moles.
  • A mole that changes in size, color or shape.
  • Any mole that itches, bleeds or is tender.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Receiving a diagnosis of melanoma can be scary. Watch your skin and moles for any changes and seeing your doctor regularly for skin examinations, especially if youre fair-skinned, will give you the best chances for catching melanoma early when its most treatable.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/21/2021.

References

Comparing Metastatic Melanoma Cells In Lymph Versus Blood

How Do You Know If A Skin Cancer Has Spread : Skin Cancer ...

Most studies of cancer cell metastasis in people have focused on cells circulating in the blood. Thats because its much easier to collect patient blood samples than it is to collect samples of lymph, the clear fluid that carries immune cells through vessels of the lymphatic system, Dr. Morrison said.

Dr. Morrisons team found that human melanoma cells injected into lymph nodes in the mice were more likely to form distant tumors than melanoma cells injected into blood.

To study the role of lymph in metastasis, lead investigator Jessalyn Ubellacker, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Morrisons lab, figured out how to collect melanoma cells from lymph in mice. This allowed the team to do the first side-by-side comparison of melanoma cells spreading through lymph and through blood in the same animal, Dr. Morrison said.

Next the team found that melanoma cells in lymph experienced less oxidative stress than melanoma cells in blood. That offered a potential explanation for why melanoma cells from lymph nodes were surviving better and better able to form a tumor, Dr. Morrison said.

Further experiments showed that melanoma cells in blood are vulnerable to ferroptosisa form of cell death that occurs when lipids damaged by oxidative stress build up in the outer membrane of a cell. By contrast, melanoma cells from lymph nodes were protected from ferroptosis.

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