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Metastatic Melanoma Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis, and Survival Rates

What Is Metastatic Melanoma?

Metastatic melanoma is a cancer that starts in the cells capable of producing a colored pigment called melanin and then has spread beyond its original skin location. It may already be present at the time of the primary or initial diagnosis of the melanoma, or may show up later after surgery has been performed. Metastatic melanoma may spread through the bloodstream or the lymph system.

What Are Metastatic Melanoma Symptoms and Signs?

When melanoma spreads through the bloodstream, the signs and symptoms will depend upon which organ system is involved and how much the tumor has grown there. Metastatic melanoma may be initially painless and symptom-free or may demonstrate ongoing problems according to the site. With lymphatic spread, swollen lymph glands or a string of nodules in the skin may be the presentation. These also are usually painless.

Tumor metastasis into the liver may cause weight loss, nausea, a swollen liver, and abnormal blood tests. Tumor in lymph nodes may cause swelling of the extremities and enlarged glands. Tumor in the lungs may cause shortness of breath, cough, and bloody sputum. Tumor in the brain may cause headaches, dizziness, and seizures. Tumor in bone may cause bone pain or unusual fractures.

Melanoma may spread to other areas of the skin and may be bluish-gray or flesh-colored nodules depending upon the amount of melanin in the tumor and depth in the skin. In staging melanoma, stage 3 is defined as local spread through lymphatic drainage (sentinel node biopsy helps with staging here), and stage 4 is defined as distant spread (metastasis) to other organs, presumably by spread through the bloodstream.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/2/2017
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