Metastatic Melanoma

Understanding Metastatic Melanoma

Metastatic melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer which develops in the cells responsible for providing pigment to the skin, called melanocytes. Metastatic melanoma is often referred to as advanced, or stage 4, melanoma. As it is usually more advanced, metastatic melanoma tends to be more difficult to treat. It is estimated that around 25-30% of those who have been diagnosed with melanoma eventually develop metastatic melanoma.

Risk Factors for Metastatic Melanoma

There are several known risk factors for the development of metastatic melanoma. These include the following:

  • A family history of melanoma
  • Fair skin
  • A weak immune system
  • Excessive exposure to UV radiation
  • Having received radiation treatment for other conditions
  • Having a history of irregular, large, or multi-colored moles

Symptoms of Metastatic Melanoma

Depending on where the cancer has metastasized, symptoms of metastatic melanoma may differ between patients. Some common symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss
  • Fever
  • Bone pain/ache
  • Night sweats
  • Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
  • Changes in the appearance of moles

It is important to note that not everyone who experiences these symptoms will have metastatic melanoma. Other factors such as age, activity, and lifestyle should be taken into account as well. As with any medical concern, it is best to consult a doctor.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Metastatic Melanoma

Metastatic melanoma is usually diagnosed via a physical exam and a biopsy of the affected cells. The biopsy helps to identify which type of melanoma is present in the body, what stage it has progressed to, and if it has spread to other parts of the body. After diagnosis, a doctor will then devise an individualized treatment plan which may include various types of treatments such as radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.

Prevention of Metastatic Melanoma

Though it is impossible to completely prevent metastatic melanoma, there are steps that can be taken to reduce one’s risk of developing it. These preventive measures include the following:

  • Limiting exposure to the sun and using SPF protection when outdoors
  • Noting any changes in the appearance of existing moles and consulting a doctor
  • Asking a doctor to perform a skin check
  • Covering up exposed skin with wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and light-weight clothing when outdoors.