Where Else Does Melanoma Spread To
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:
- 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.
Signs That You May Be Developing Melanoma
This is part 1 of 2 in a mini-series about melanoma. The next article will go into detail about ways to prevent it from ever developing in the first place. Melanoma is one of the most serious forms of cancer in the world, and it should be treated as such.
4 Signs That You May Be Developing Melanoma
Cancer is understandably one of the biggest problems in modern health. Even with the millions of dollars being contributed into the research behind causes and treatments, it still holds a spot as one of the highest causes of death across the world. One of the biggest issues with trying to figure it out is that it can originate in so many different parts of your body, and end up spreading to the point that it becomes almost impossible to treat.
Of those different parts of your body, the skin is currently a big focus for quite a large number of researchers. When it comes to skin cancer, 75% of cases have to do with melanoma the most severe form of it.
Did you know that scientists are predicting about 75,000 cases of melanoma development in Americans next year? Of those 75,000 theyre predicting about 10,000 deaths to follow. Its a scary thought. The rates of melanoma diagnoses have been steadily increasing over the past few years, and it doesnt look like that rate is going to slow down any time soon.
What are some signs that you may be developing melanoma? Check for any of these:
Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Bone
You might have any of the following symptoms if your cancer has spread to the bones:
- pain from breakdown of the bone the pain is continuous and people often describe it as gnawing
- backache, which gets worse despite resting
- weaker bones they can break more easily
- raised blood calcium , which can cause dehydration, confusion, sickness, tummy pain and constipation
- low levels of blood cells blood cells are made in the bone marrow and can be crowded out by the cancer cells, causing anaemia, increased risk of infection, bruising and bleeding
Cancer in the spinal bones can cause pressure on the spinal cord. If it isn’t treated, it can lead to weakness in your legs, numbness, paralysis and loss of bladder and bowel control . This is called spinal cord compression. It is an emergency so if you have these symptoms, you need to contact your cancer specialist straight away or go to the accident and emergency department.
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What Are The Melanoma Stages And What Do They Mean
Stage 0 and I are localized, meaning they have not spread.
- Stage 0: Melanoma is localized in the outermost layer of skin and has not advanced deeper. This noninvasive stage is also called melanoma in situ.
- Stage I: The cancer is smaller than 1 mm in Breslow depth, and may or may not be ulcerated. It is localized but invasive, meaning that it has penetrated beneath the top layer into the next layer of skin. Invasive tumors considered stage IA are classified as early and thin if they are not ulcerated and measure less than 0.8 mm.
Find out about treatment options for early melanomas.
Intermediate or high-risk melanomas
Localized but larger tumors may have other traits such as ulceration that put them at high risk of spreading.
- Stage II: Intermediate, high-risk melanomas are tumors deeper than 1 mm that may or may not be ulcerated. Although they are not yet known to have advanced beyond the primary tumor, the risk of spreading is high, and physicians may recommend a sentinel lymph node biopsy to verify whether melanoma cells have spread to the local lymph nodes. Thicker melanomas, greater than 4.0 mm, have a very high risk of spreading, and any ulceration can move the disease into a higher subcategory of stage II. Because of that risk, the doctor may recommend more aggressive treatment.
How Is Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Diagnosed
Diagnosis is made by clinical exam and a biopsy. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are staged by size and extent of growth. Basal cell cancers rarely metastasize to lymph nodes, but they can grow quite large and invade local structures. Squamous cell cancers have a much higher incidence of lymph node involvement in the neck and parotid gland and can spread along nerves.
Melanoma is staged, based not on size but on how deeply it invades the skin layers. Therefore, a superficial or shave biopsy will not provide accurate staging information used to guide treatment. Melanomas can have a very unpredictable course and may spread to distant organs. Melanomas with intermediate thickness often require sentinel node biopsy, a surgical procedure performed by a head and neck surgeon, to determine if microscopic spreading to lymph nodes has occurred.
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A Quick Note From Our Founder
I dont often align myself with products but this is one that I just had to share!
Some of you may already know years ago, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
I can still recall what it felt like to have my life change overnight
I went from an Executive Director of a non-profit organization, running marathons, rock climbing, hiking canyons and kayaking to being completely bedridden and staring at a wall for 15 hours a day.
Of course, I went to see many doctors but unfortunately I didnt find the help I needed. So, I had to set off on my own journey to learn my true path to healing.
Id pretty much turned-over every rock trying to find relief for my pain, sleep issues and myriad of other symptoms
Fast-forward 18 years.
I was determined to climb one of the true wonders of the natural world, Machu Picchu, the mystical home of the Incas in Peru.
It was there, after a grueling day when my feet, knees, legs, and lower back hurt so bad, that I thought I would have to abandon hopes of our next climb which was Rainbow Mountain! That night I pulled out a little spray bottle of aceite de magnesio that a friend had given me before I left on my trip.
What the heck, I thought. I was desperate. And I applied it all over my body before bed.
Because of the grueling day, I woke up expecting to be immobilized, but instead we were off to climb Rainbow Mountain andI was totally pain-free!
I know it sounds impossible, but its 1000% the truth.
What Do Stage 4 Tumors Look Like
A change to an existing mole or normal skin can be the first sign that the cancer has spread. But the physical symptoms of stage 4 melanoma arent the same for everyone. A doctor will diagnose stage 4 melanoma by looking at the primary tumor, the spread to nearby lymph nodes, and whether the tumor has spread to different organs. While your doctor wont base their diagnosis only on what your tumor looks like, part of their diagnosis involves looking at the primary tumor.
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How Do People Find Signs Of Melanoma On Their Own Skin
Performing a skin self-exam as often as recommended by your dermatologist is the best way. While examining your skin, you want to look for the following:
Mole that is changing in any way
Spot that looks different from the rest of the spots on your skin
Growth or spot on your skin that itches, bleeds, or is painful
Band of color beneath or around a nail
Sore that doesnt heal or heals and returns
The ABCDEs of melanoma can help you find changes to a mole, freckle, or other spot on your skin.
What Are The Types Of Melanoma
There are four main types of melanoma of the skin. These are:
This is the most common type of melanoma, accounting for about70% of all melanoma skin cancers. As the name implies, this type of melanoma may start as a mole or a new pigment that grows on the surface of the skin and later on penetrates more deeply. It may appear in any part of the body but is most commonly seen on the torso and legs. In terms of appearance, it is often flat and comes with irregular borders.
This is the type of melanoma that commonly affects older adults and occurs on sun-damaged skin. At its early age, it may start as a lentigo maligna, also called a Hutchinson melanotic freckle, which grows on the outer layer of the skin. Once it penetrates beneath the skin, it becomes lentigo maligna melanoma. It often develops on the head and neck parts of the body.
This is the type of melanoma that affects mostly people with dark skin, especially those in Africa and with Asian roots. It often appears as a dark or brown pigment similar to a bruise or stain. ALM often grows in areas that are hard to notice, such as the soles of the feet or even under the nails.
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Can Melanoma Be Prevented
Its very difficult to prevent cancer, as theres still much research to be done on its causes and development. In particular, doctors and scientists arent certain what causes melanoma to form. And that means completely preventing this type of cancer isnt yet possible.
However, some risk factors that can increase your chances of developing melanoma are known. With this knowledge, it may be possible to reduce the risk of melanoma.
One way you may be able to lower your risk of melanoma by limiting your exposure to UV light. Although its difficult to completely eliminate your skins exposure to UV rays, the Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following precautions that may help:
- Avoid going outside into the sunlight when rays are strongest .
- Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day, even when its cloudy, cold, or overcast.
- Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, even if you arent sweating or performing physical activity.
- Cover your skin with dark, tightly woven clothing, a hat, and sunglasses that block UV rays.
- Avoid tanning, whether youre laying out in the sun or using a tanning bed or lamp.
Above all else, you should also regularly examine your skin. The best way to limit the damage that melanoma can cause is with early detection and you can only detect changes to your skin by taking a close look. If you become familiar with your skin, youll be more likely to notice changes. Give yourself a head-to-toe skin check regularly, and note any changes that you see.
How Do You Treat Stage 4 Melanoma
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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Does Melanoma Show Up In Blood Work
Blood tests are performed. Although blood tests are not used to detect melanoma, several tests may be performed before or during treatment, particularly in the case of more advanced melanomas. Before starting treatment, doctors frequently check the patients blood for the presence of a chemical known as lactate dehydrogenase .
I’ve 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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Sores That Wont Go Away
This is one of the most often overlooked signs of melanoma. People develop sores all the time as a result of their skin coming into contact with environmental damage. Some people dont even bother treating them if they arent causing enough irritation or soreness.
If you notice sores on your body, treat them. If your treatment attempts fail, then it may be a sign that youre developing melanoma. If you notice that your skin doesnt respond to treatment, then see a doctor ASAP. Although it doesnt necessarily mean that its dangerous youre a lot better off making sure.
*One of the biggest reasons why melanoma is so hard to treat is that people often overlook symptoms before its too late. Treating it is considerably easier in earlier stages of development.
What You Can Do
Check yourself: No matter your risk, examine your skin head-to-toe once a month to identify potential skin cancers early. Take note of existing moles or lesions that grow or change. Learn how to check your skin here.
When in doubt, check it out. Because melanoma can be so dangerous once it advances, follow your instincts and visit your doctor if you see a spot that just doesnt seem right.
Keep in mind that while important, monthly self-exams are not enough. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.
If youve had a melanoma, follow up regularly with your doctor once treatment is complete. Stick to the schedule your doctor recommends so that you will find any recurrence as early as possible.
Melanoma Can Be Tricky
Identifying a potential skin cancer is not easy, and not all melanomas follow the rules. Melanomas come in many forms and may display none of the typical warning signs.
Its also important to note that about 20 to 30 percent of melanomas develop in existing moles, while 70 to 80 percent arise on seemingly normal skin.
Amelanotic melanomas are missing the dark pigment melanin that gives most moles their color. Amelanotic melanomas may be pinkish, reddish, white, the color of your skin or even clear and colorless, making them difficult to recognize.
Acral lentiginous melanoma, the most common form of melanoma found in people of color, often appears in hard-to-spot places, including under the fingernails or toenails, on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
The takeaway: Be watchful for any new mole or freckle that arises on your skin, a sore or spot that does not heal, any existing mole that starts changing or any spot, mole or lesion that looks unusual.
Acral lentiginous melanoma is the most common melanoma found in people of color.
What Are The Signs Of Symptoms Of Metastatic Melanoma
Signs and symptoms depend upon the site of metastasis and the amount of tumor there. Metastases to the brain may first appear as headaches, unusual numbness in the arms and legs, or seizures. Spread to the liver may be first identified by abnormal blood tests of liver function long before the patient has jaundice, a swollen liver, or any other signs of liver failure. Spread to the kidneys may cause pain and blood in the urine. Spread to the lungs may cause shortness of breath, other trouble breathing, chest pain, and continued cough. Spread to bones may cause bone pain or broken bones called pathologic fractures. A very high tumor burden may lead to fatigue, weight loss, weakness and, in rare cases, the release of so much melanin into the circulation that the patient may develop brown or black urine and have their skin turn a diffuse slate-gray color. The appearance of multiple blue-gray nodules in the skin of a melanoma patient may indicate widespread melanoma metastases to remote skin sites.