Managing Stage 3 Melanoma
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It affects the skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment that colors your skin. Melanoma can also develop in other organs such as your eyes and intestines, but this is uncommon.
Melanoma is most common in women under the age of 40. Stage 3 melanoma, also sometimes written as stage III, is an advanced form of skin cancer.
What Is Stage 3 Melanoma?
What Is Stage 3 Melanoma?
Stage 3 melanoma means that cancer is present in not just the skin cells at the time of diagnosis, but also the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small tissues located in your neck, under your arms, and in other areas throughout the body. Your lymph nodes may or may not be swollen in stage 3.
Stage 3 melanoma is split into three categories: 3a, 3b, and 3c. Stage 3a is the least serious while stage 3c is the most advanced. Staging depends on the location of the cancer, the size of the tumors, and if they have ulcerated (spread to the mucus membranes).
The survival rates for stage 3 melanoma vary based on the size of the primary tumor and how far the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes and other organs. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for the stages are as follow:
- stage 3a: 78 percent
- stage 3b: 59 percent
- stage 3c: 40 percent
The 10-year survival rates are:
- stage 3a: 68 percent
- stage 3b: 43 percent
- stage 3c: 24 percent
Surgery is the first-line treatment for stage 3 melanoma. Your surgeon will remove the tumors, lymph nodes that are cancerous, and some normal tissue around the tumors. You’ll have a skin graft (skin taken from another part of your body) to cover the areas of skin that have been removed.
After surgery, you may need other treatments such as chemotherapy.
In some cases, removing melanoma tumors and organs isn’t possible. Immunotherapy is a treatment option that helps stop or slow tumor growth and boosts the immune system. Immunotherapy is sometimes also called targeted therapy.
One example of immunotherapy is interferon, a medication that’s injected under the skin or given intravenously (through a vein). Interferon shrinks melanoma tumors and may be used alone or with chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy kills cancer cells. Doctors may combine it with immunotherapy or use it by itself. Chemo is given either through an IV or an oral pill. Melanoma patients may have systemic chemotherapy that affects the whole body or regional chemotherapy.
Regional chemotherapy delivers medicine to just an arm or a leg, and may be used if the melanoma is located in a limb. This way, fewer healthy cells are killed along with the cancerous cells.
It’s possible for melanoma to go into remission after treatment. But, the chances of stage 3 melanoma coming back (recurring) are moderate to high.
The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s Melanoma Center estimates that people with stage 3 melanoma have a 20 percent to over 50 percent chance that the cancer will spread further or return.
Prevention and Education
Prevention and Education
Limiting exposure to the sun, wearing protective clothing, and learning the warning signs of skin cancer can help prevent melanoma or catch it in the earliest stages.
Managing stage 3 melanoma is challenging. But, with technological and medical advances happening every day, cancer is no longer the certain death sentence it once was.
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