What Are the Prognosis and Survival Rates for Melanoma by Stage?

What Are the Prognosis and Survival Rates for Melanoma by Stage?

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  • Dangers of Melanoma

    Dangers of Melanoma

    Melanoma is a kind of cancer that begins in the cells that create the pigment melanin. Melanoma usually starts as a dark mole on the skin. But it can form in other tissue, such as the eye or intestine, too.

    It’s important to keep an eye on moles and changes in your skin, as melanoma can be deadly if it spreads. There were more than 9,000 deaths from melanoma in the United States in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute.

    Click through the slideshow to learn about the outlook for this type of cancer.

  • How Is Melanoma Staged?

    How Is Melanoma Staged?

    Melanoma is described by stages. A particular stage of the disease gives an idea how far the cancer has spread. Early on, a physical exam is usually enough to identify Stage 1 melanoma, for example. But more sophisticated technology, such as PET scans and sentinel lymph node biopsies, are necessary to measure the cancer’s progression.

    There are five stages of melanoma. The first stage is called stage 0, or melanoma in situ. The last stage is called stage 4.

  • Factors Affecting Survival Rates

    Factors Affecting Survival Rates

    The five- and 10-year survival rates for the various stages of melanoma are based on patients who lived at least five or 10 years after being diagnosed.

    Factors that could affect survival rates are:

    • new developments in cancer treatment
    • a person’s response to treatment
    • age (older patients tend not to live as long at each stage of the disease)


  • Stage 0

    Stage 0

    Stage 0 melanoma is also called melanoma in situ. All it means is that your body has some abnormal melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin. The cells could become cancerous, but at this point, they’re simply abnormal cells in the top layer of your skin.

    Melanoma in situ may look like a small mole. Even though it may appear harmless, a dermatologist should evaluate any new or suspicious-looking mark on your skin.

  • Stage 1

    Stage 1

    In stage 1a, the tumor is up to one millimeter (mm) thick, and it has no ulceration. Ulceration means the tumor has broken through the skin. Stage 1b means that the tumor is up to one mm thick and has some ulceration, or it’s between one mm and two mm thick and has no ulceration.

    The five-year survival rate for stage 1a is 97 percent and 92 percent for stage 1b. The 10-year survival rates are 95 percent for stage 1a and 86 percent for Stage 1b, according to the American Cancer Society.

  • Stage 2

    Stage 2

    Stage 2 melanoma means the tumor has grown in size, and it may have spread to lymph nodes nearby. Surgery to remove the cancerous tumor is the usual treatment strategy. A doctor may also order a sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine the cancer’s progression.

    The five-year survival rate for stage 2a is 81 percent and 70 percent for stage 2b. The 10-year survival rates are 67 percent for stage 2a and 57 percent for stage 2b, according to the American Cancer Society.

  • Stage 3

    Stage 3

    At this point, the tumor can be any size or shape. To be considered stage 3 melanoma, the cancer has to have spread to the lymph system. Surgery to remove cancerous tissue and lymph nodes is possible. Radiation therapy and treatment with other powerful medications are also common stage 3 treatments.

    The American Cancer Society reports the five-year survival rate for stage 3 melanoma ranges from 40 percent to 78 percent. The 10-year survival rate ranges from 24 percent  to 68 percent.

  • Stage 4

    Stage 4

    Stage 4 melanoma means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain, or other organs and tissue. It may have also spread to lymph nodes a good distance from the original tumor.

    Stage 4 melanoma is difficult to cure. The five-year survival rate is only about 15 percent to 20 percent. The 10-year survival rate is 10 percent to 15 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

  • Be Proactive

    Be Proactive

    In its early stages, melanoma is a treatable condition. But, the cancer must be identified and treated swiftly. Annual visits to a dermatologist and self-checks can help you avoid melanomas and other types of skin cancers.

    If you ever see a new mole or a suspicious mark on your skin, have it evaluated by a dermatologist promptly. If your immune system is weakened by a condition such as HIV, getting checked is especially important.