Melanoma is a cancer of the skin cells. Stage 4 melanoma is the most deadly stage of this skin cancer, where treatment may be impossible. At this stage, the cancer is spread from its original place to other parts of the body, such as the liver, brain, and lungs.
Melanoma occurs when the cells that produces pigment called melanocytes metamorphose and become cancerous. It can develop on any part of the body but is more likely to affect the back, chest, face, and neck. Melanoma is also common on the legs in women.
Survival rate of Stage 4 Melanoma
The American Cancer Society places the 5-year survival rate for stage 4 melanoma at 15–20 percent. This means that an estimated 15–20 percent of people with stage 4 melanoma will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.
Some factors like people’s age and their response to treatment, and availability of new treatment options can affect survival rates.
Signs and symptoms
The appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole or birthmark is the most noticeable sign of melanoma. People should be aware of any pigmented areas on the skin that appear abnormal in shape, size, color, or texture.
People with stage 4 melanoma may also have skin with tiny breaks on the surface, called ulcerations, which can equally bleed.
A hard or swollen lymph nodes is another sign of melanoma. This can be confirmed by a doctor while examining the person. Blood tests and imaging scans can confirm the presence of cancer and check how much it has spread.
For stage 4 melanoma, doctors may use traditional methods to treat it. These include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Newer methods of treatment for stage 4 melanoma include immunotherapy and targeted therapy. These treatments accurately target and destroy the cancer cells, avoiding damage to surrounding healthy cells.
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There are mutations or genetic changes in a gene called the BRAF gene in most melanoma cases. People with melanoma who have this gene can use targeted therapy drugs called BRAF inhibitors to attack the BRAF protein and shrink the growth of the cancer cells.