Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, which appears like a flat, asymmetrical mole with irregular borders. It develops in melanocytes (pigment cells). While some can develop within an existing mole, most are new skin growths or spots. Melanoma is the sixth most common cancer in the United States and is increasing rapidly.

Metastatic melanoma occurs when the cancer has spread (or metastasized) to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of Metastatic Melanoma

The following skin transformations are common in metastatic melanoma:

  • Color change
  • Bleeding without cause
  • Ulcerations or infection of skin
  • Itching
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Transformation from flat to raised or vice versa

More serious changes that can occur throughout the body include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes, typically in the groin or armpit
  • Colorless lump
  • Weight loss of unknown cause
  • Headaches
  • Chronic cough
  • Seizures

Once a diagnosis of melanoma is made, one must stage the cancer by assessing the spread (metastasis) for treatment options. Typical sites of spread start under the skin and then progress to the following parts of the body:

  • Lymph nodes
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Brain
  • Bone

The following sites are considered distant, and occur in later stages of metastatic melanoma:

  • Adrenal glands
  • Heart
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Spleen

Stages of Metastatic Melanoma

  • Stage 0: Melanoma is in the epidermis but not the dermis underneath.
  • Stage 1: Tumor is equal to or less than 1 mm thick.
  • Stage 2: Tumor is between 1-4mm thick.
  • Stage 3:Tumor is between 1-4 mm thick. Has spread to 1-3 nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: Spread to distant sites and vital organs.