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Metastatic Melanoma

Topic Overview

When melanoma spreads (metastasizes), it usually spreads first into nearby lymph nodes. It can also spread through the bloodstream. Distant metastases of melanoma typically are found in the skin, liver, lungs, bone, and brain.

If the melanoma is on a leg or arm, metastases usually are first found higher up on that leg or arm. Unusual sites for metastases include the eye.

You may notice changes in a new or existing mole, such as:

  • An open sore (ulceration) or infection.
  • Bleeding for no reason.
  • Itching, tenderness, or pain.
  • A change in color.
  • A change in the thickness, such as going from flat to raised or raised to flat.

But symptoms may be vague and include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes, especially in the armpit or groin.
  • A colorless lump or thickening under the skin.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Gray skin.
  • Ongoing (chronic) cough.
  • Headaches.
  • Seizures.

When melanoma has spread only to nearby tissues or lymph nodes, treatments such as immunotherapy can sometimes work. But after melanoma has spread to other places in the body, cure is very rare. In these cases, treatment to manage symptoms may help a person live longer.

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Last Revised October 12, 2012

Last Revised: October 12, 2012

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