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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Metastatic Melanoma

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What Is Metastatic Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. When it spreads to other places in your body, it's called metastatic, or advanced. You may also hear your doctor refer to it as stage IV melanoma.

Melanoma often spreads to:

  • Tissue under the skin
  • Lymph nodes
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Brain

Although in most cases it can't be cured, treatments and support can help you live longer and better. Doctors have new therapies that have greatly increased survival rates. And researchers are working to find new medications that can do even more.

Remember: You still have control over the decisions you make about your treatment and your life. It's important to have people you can talk to about your plans, your fears, and your feelings. So find support and learn about your treatment options. That will help you make the most of your life.


In most cases, melanoma is caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. It damages the DNA of your skin cells, and they start to grow out of control.

You can get the disease on parts of your body that don't get sunlight, though, like the palms of your hands and the retinas of your eyes.

You're more likely to get melanoma if you have:

  • Fair skin, along with lighter hair and eye color
  • Many moles or irregular moles (not beauty marks or small brown blemishes)
  • A family history of melanoma


If your melanoma has spread to other areas, you may have:

  • Hardened lumps under your skin
  • Swollen or painful lymph nodes
  • Trouble breathing, or a cough that doesn't go away
  • Swelling of your liver (under your lower right ribs) or loss of appetite
  • Bone pain or, less often, broken bones
  • Headaches, seizures, or weakness or numbness in your arms or legs
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Getting a Diagnosis

Before you have any tests, your doctor will want to know:

  • Why did you come in?
  • What have you noticed, and when?
  • How are you feeling?
  • Have you been diagnosed with melanoma before?
  • If so, how was it treated?
  • Has anyone in your family had melanoma?
  • Have you ever used a tanning bed?
  • How many times have you had a sunburn?
  • Do you wear sunscreen? When? And what type?
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