Melanoma develops when normal pigment-producing skin
melanocytes become abnormal, grow uncontrollably, and
invade surrounding tissues. Usually only one melanoma develops at a time.
Although melanomas can begin in an existing
mole or other skin growth, most start in unmarked
skin. Melanoma is classified as primary or metastatic.
usually follows a predictable
pattern of growth through the
skin layers. Early detection and surgery to remove the melanoma cure most
cases of primary melanoma.
If not treated, most melanomas spread
to other parts of the body over time. Melanomas rarely go away without
Your long-term survival, or prognosis, with primary
melanoma depends on:
- How deeply the melanoma penetrates the skin
- Whether an open sore is present over the
primary tumor (ulceration).
has spread through the
lymph system to nearby skin, lymph nodes, or through
the bloodstream to other organs such as the brain or the liver. Metastatic
melanoma usually cannot be cured. Clinical trials may offer the best treatment option for people with metastatic cancer.
Experts talk about prognosis in terms of "5-year survival rates." The
5-year survival rate means the percentage of people who are still alive 5 years
or longer after their cancer was discovered. Remember that these are only
averages. Everyone's case is different, and these numbers do not necessarily
show what will happen to you. The estimated 5-year survival rate for melanoma
- 98% if cancer is found early and treated
before it has spread.
- 62% if the cancer has spread to close-by
- 15% if the cancer has spread farther away, such as to the
liver, brain, or bones.