The Prognosis for Melanoma
The prognosis for melanoma is highly dependent on the stage it is at when it is found. The earlier the melanoma is found and treated, the better chance the patient has of surviving. When left untreated, it can and usually does spread (metastasise) to other organs in the body. The high rate of metastasis is the main reason melanoma is considered the deadliest skin cancer. It is also why melanoma is one of the top causes of cancer-related deaths.
Melanoma Survival Rates
Survival rates can vary widely between patients depending on the stage and whether treatment is received. Patients with Stage I can be as good as cured. A cure is also possible in most Stage II cancer patients. With treatment, patients in Stage I have an approximate 95% chance of surviving beyond five years and an 88% chance of passing ten years. Stage II is associated with a 77-79% and 64% survival rate at five and ten years respectively according to Cancer Research UK statistics.
In stages III and IV when the cancer has spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body, survival rates drop sharply. With Stage IIIa-c, 29-69% of patients live past the fifth year. Only 15-63% survive over ten years. Once the cancer reaches Stage IV, there is only a 7-19% chance of making it to five years. There are no statistics for ten-year survival, most likely because cancers that have progressed that far are typically fatal.
Anyone who has melanoma in the past is at risk of recurrence, or a return of the cancer. Patients whose melanoma had a thick tumor, ulceration or satellite metastases have a higher risk of recurrence. The prognosis for melanoma recurrence isn't necessarily poor. If found in the early stages and appropriate treatment is given, survival is highly possible.
Melanoma survivors should do regular examinations of their skin to look for signs of the cancer's return. Examinations should look for typical signs of melanoma following the ABCDE Rule - asymmetrical moles, uneven border, color changes or variations, diameter larger than normal mole or a mole/lesion that is evolving in general size. Appearance of new moles should be monitored regularly. Hard or painful nodules may appear beneath the skin.
Melanoma can appear near the previous site or in a completely different one. Common sites for distant recurrence is the lungs, bones, liver, or brain. In the lungs, it may cause shortness of breath or a tight feeling in the chest. When the bones or liver are affected, there may be pain. Tumors in the brain may cause headaches, problems with vision or hearing or seizures.
Since the lymph nodes are typically where the body mounts its first defence against cancer, they should be checked on a regular basis. The large quantity of white blood cells that assemble in nodes may cause them to become enlarged. They may be hard and tender to touch.If any of these signs are present, an appointment should be immediately scheduled with your physician for evaluation. A biopsy may be required to confirm the recurrence.
While this cancer may seem scary, the prognosis for melanoma is not always poor. Even on recurrence, early treatment can make a large difference in survival.
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