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What is a Metastatic Malignant Melanoma?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Melanoma is a malignant tumor often arising from melanocytes, the cells of the skin which produce pigment or color. It can metastasize or spread via the lymph nodes to other tissues or organs inside the body. When melanoma has spread to other organs, it is called metastatic malignant melanoma. Organs commonly affected by metastatic malignant melanoma are the lungs, brain, and liver. It is one of the hardest types of cancer to treat, especially if it has spread to multiple organs.

Aside from the skin, melanocytes are also found in the eyes, gastrointestinal tract, and other tissues inside the body. Metastatic malignant melanoma can arise from any of these sites, but the most common site of origin is the skin. This is why people are encouraged to watch out for the signs and symptoms of melanoma in the skin. If any unusual skin changes or new growths are observed, they should be evaluated properly for early detection of melanoma. Some people are more susceptible to melanoma, especially fair skinned people, those who spend a lot of time in the sun, and those with history of melanoma in the family.

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The signs and symptoms of melanoma can easily be remembered using the mnemonic ABCDE. "A" stands for an asymmetrical mole, usually with one half of the mole looking differently from the other. "B" stands for borders of melanoma which are usually irregular and ragged. "C" is for the color, which is usually a mixture of two colors or more. "D" is for the diameter of moles or new growths usually greater than 6 mm (about .23 inch), and "E" is for any elevation, which can be observed if the mole is growing larger or increasing in height.

When melanoma is suspected, a tissue biopsy is often done by taking out the whole affected area or taking just a portion of the mole for diagnosis and staging of melanoma. When metastatic malignant melanoma is diagnosed, the cancer is already in a later stage, usually stage III or stage IV. Stage III melanoma usually indicates that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, while stage IV melanoma often indicates that the cancer has spread to distant organs.

Management and treatment of metastatic malignant melanoma usually take place under the care of an oncologist. Oncologists are medical doctors specializing in the treatment and care of patients with cancer. Other medical specialists like surgeons, gastroenterologists, and pulmonologists are also involved, depending on the extent and location of the cancer. Melanoma is often treated with chemotherapy and radiation, although advanced cases of metastatic malignant melanoma are usually very difficult treat and often have a poor prognosis.

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