The most dangerous aspect of melanoma is its ability, in later stages, to spread (or metastasize) to other parts of the body. The term 'metastatic melanoma', also known as Stage IV melanoma, is used when melanoma cells of any kind (cutaneous, mucosal or ocular) have spread through the lymph nodes to distant sites in the body and/or to the body's organs. The liver, lungs, bones and brain are most often affected by these metastases.
As with other cancers, metastases occur when the melanoma is not caught in the early stages. Oftentimes, symptoms only become present once it is has already spread. Once melanoma has spread, determining the original type is nearly impossible – which makes planning the right treatment extremely difficult. Early detection is crucial.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, reading through our Just Diagnosed...Now What? booklet may be helpful. Some additional quick tips:
- Be sure to see a melanoma specialist, or someone who has a lot of experience treating melanoma
- Don't be afraid to get a second opinion
- Learn about all possible treatment options - there are advances happening every day in immunotherapies, targeted therapies and clinical trials
- Be prepared for doctor's visits - view our Questions to Ask Your Doctor - take someone with you and ask him or her to take notes for you
The MRF has funded numerous studies focusing on treatment for patients in later-stage, or metastatic, melanoma and the Melanoma Patient Information Page contains numerous conversation threads pertaining specifically to addressing the unique needs of patients with metastatic melanoma.
Still have questions? Email Education@melanoma.org for help or answers.