Symptoms and Pictures of Stage 4 Melanoma

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  • Advanced Melanoma

    Advanced Melanoma

    Stage 4 is the most advanced phase of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. Melanin is a pigment in skin that gives it color. This type of skin cancer is called melanoma because it develops in the pigment-producing cells of your skin. 

    Each year, more than 75,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma. However, only four percent of skin cancers are melanoma, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Still, melanoma accounts for three-quarters of all skin cancer-related deaths, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

    Click through the slideshow to learn more about advanced melanoma and its symptoms.

  • Melanoma That Has Spread

    Melanoma That Has Spread

    Melanoma becomes more deadly the more it grows. Cancer tumors within the skin grow larger as cancer advances. However, it’s what happens elsewhere in the body that makes this type of cancer so dangerous.

    By stage 4, melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes, internal organs, and other areas of the body. These new growths are difficult and sometimes impossible to treat without surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or biotherapies.

  • Where Melanoma Spreads

    Where Melanoma Spreads

    Once melanoma has progressed beyond stage 2, the skin cancer is no longer contained to its original spot. At stage 3, melanoma has spread to lymph nodes near the original tumor. Stage 4 melanoma has spread beyond the lymph nodes to other areas of the body. 

    Melanoma most commonly spreads to the lungs. Other frequent sites for skin cancer metastases include the liver, brain, gastrointestinal tract, and bones.

  • Skin Symptoms

    Skin Symptoms

    A doctor will diagnose stage 4 melanoma when they determine that the cancer has spread beyond the original affected area of skin. That means a diagnosis is not made based on how a skin cancer tumor or spot looks from the outside.

    For that reason, physical signs of stage 4 melanoma are not the same for everyone. The next few slides will give you an overview of the most common symptoms of stage 4 melanoma and what they may mean.

  • Tumor Size

    Tumor Size

    The American Joint Commission on Cancer (AJCC) reports that stage 4 melanoma tumors are thicker than 4 millimeters deep. However, because stage 4 melanoma is diagnosed once the melanoma has spread to distant lymph nodes or to other organs, the size of the tumor varies from person to person.

    Additionally, treatment may shrink the tumor, but the cancer can still metastasize. That means that the size of the tumor isn’t always the best indicator of skin cancer staging.

  • Ulceration

    Ulceration

    Some skin cancer tumors develop an ulceration, or a break in the skin. This opening can begin as early as stage 1 melanoma, and can continue into more advanced stages. If you have stage 4 melanoma, your skin tumor may or may not be broken and bleeding.  

    According to the American Cancer Society, melanomas that have ulcerations often also have a worse prognosis.

  • Tumor Matting

    Tumor Matting

    This symptom of stage 4 melanoma is easier to feel than it is to see. When melanoma spreads to nearby lymph nodes, those nodes may become matted, or joined together. When you press on the matted lymph nodes, they will feel lumpy and hard. A doctor, checking for advanced melanoma, may be the first person to detect this symptom of stage 4 melanoma. 

  • Stage 4 Melanoma Prognosis

    Stage 4 Melanoma Prognosis

    Getting rid of stage 4 melanoma can be difficult. Once the cancer spreads, locating and treating it becomes more and more difficult. You and your doctor can develop a plan that balances your needs. The treatment should make you comfortable, but it should also aggressively attack the cancer. This treatment plan may include radiation, biological therapies, chemotherapy, and even surgery. 

  • Treatment Helps

    Treatment Helps

    The good news is that even stage 4 melanoma can be treated if it’s caught and aggressively treated. The sooner the cancer is found, the sooner it can be removed—and the higher your chances are for recovery.

    Treatment depends on where the cancer is, how advanced it has become, and how healthy you are in general. Still, any treatment is often better than no treatment at all because cancer that remains untreated can quickly become deadly.

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