How a Mole Develops into Stage IV Skin Cancer

Allison Bush | Nov 12th 2015 Nov 17th 2016

Reviewed by Todd Gersten, MD

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What is melanoma?

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Melanoma gets its name because it develops in the pigment-producing cells of the skin. Only four percent of skin cancers are melanoma, but it accounts for three-quarters of all skin cancer-related deaths.

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What makes melanoma deadly?

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Melanoma becomes more deadly the more it grows. When the melanoma grows, cancer tumors within the skin grow larger and deeper as cancer advances. By stage 4, melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes, internal organs, and other areas of the body.

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Symptoms

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Stage 4 melanoma is diagnosed when tests reveal that it has spread to other parts of the body. Some indicators for stage 4 melanoma include tumor size, ulceration of the skin, and tumor matting (when the lymph nodes conjoin and become hard and lumpy).

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Where does melanoma typically spread?

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Once the melanoma has surpassed stage 2, it first spreads to the lymph nodes. At stage 4, it has likely spread to other parts of the body, including the lungs, liver, brain, gastrointestinal tract, and the bones.

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Prognosis

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Once the cancer spreads, stage 4 melanoma can be difficult to treat. Treatment at this stage should be aggressive and may include radiation, biological therapies, chemotherapy, and surgery.

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Can treatment be successful at this stage?

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Yes, stage 4 skin cancer can be treated successfully if it’s caught in time and aggressively treated. Your type of treatment will depend on where the cancer has spread, your overall health, and how advanced the cancer is.

NEXT: Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Stage 4 Melanoma