Metastatic melanoma is form of cancer that has the propensity to spread from its primary place of origin to other sites popularly called secondary sites. Metastatic melanoma primarily affects special pigment-containing skin cells known as melanocytes which makes it often times restricted to the skin except when it spread to other body organs (such as the intestine, legs, mouth, intestines and the eye) which is quite rare.
The primary cause of metastatic melanoma is frequent or persistent exposure of low-level pigmented skin melanocytes to ultra-violet rays (UV) of sunlight. Other rare causes of metastatic melanoma is tanning. Those who have poor immunity or family history of metastatic melanoma, or history if genetic mutation are also at a higher risk of having the cancer. So also genetic diseases such as Xeroderma pigmentosum can also raise the risk of having it.Early signs of metastatic melanoma include changes in the structure of moles and appearance of new lumps on the skin. At advanced stages, metastatic melanoma symptoms and signs such as bleeding and ulcerating moles are presented.
Symptoms of metastatic melanoma
Metastatic melanoma signs and symptoms may vary depending on the site of origin and the secondary sites it has spread to. For instance, patients may have brain metastases which may cause serious brain diseases and brain death in advance cases. Apart from this, the following are metastatic melanoma symptoms:
1. Loss of appetite.
2. Vomiting and nausea.
4. Skin bleeds especially moles and lumps that has been changing in morphology and elevation over time.
5. Abdominal swelling: This is common in patients who have the cancer spread to the abdomen and the liver.
6. Shortness of breath: This is common in patients with lungs metastases from the primary site.
7. Weight loss
8. Hardened lumps under the skin.
9. Cough that refuses to go away.
10. Headaches and migraine.
11. Another one of the symptoms of metastatic melanoma is seizures (when the brain meninges are affected), this is triggered when the cancer has spread to the brain.
12. Swollen liver: Another one of metastatic melanoma symptoms is swollen liver which is characterized by jaundice sign, and swollen or protruding abdomen due to accumulation of ascites in the abdomen. You may notice a swollen liver by protrusion under the right ribs.
13. Multicolored moles and irregularly shaped or asymmetrically elevated moles are also other characteristic signs of metastatic melanoma, they may start bleeding without scratch.
Visual inspection and skin biopsies are regarded as some of the best means to diagnose skin melanomas effectively as they help to make differential diagnosis of moles, lumps and skin intonations over a period of time.
According to the American cancer society, the overall five-year survival rate for stage IV melanoma is around 15-20%.
Always protect your skin from ultraviolet rays of sunlight, it helps a lot, try to use body creams with sun-screen properties, they help in little ways you may never know.
Staging of melanoma helps to determine the stage and how far the cancer may have spread. Melanoma has no cure but, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may help to alleviate the accompanying symptoms.