Advanced melanoma is caused by the spread of melanoma from a single site to multiple sites including distant lymph nodes and other organs including lungs, liver, bones, brain, and abdomen. Melanoma, if not detected in time or not treated correctly, can progress to advanced or metastatic melanoma.1
Early detection is key to preventing advanced melanoma, as it is curable when caught early. This means lowering your risk by taking care to reduce UV light exposure, limiting sun exposure especially between the peak hours of 10:00 to 16:00 hours, wearing protective clothing such as hats, sunglasses, and clothes with UV-protective material, applying sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more frequently and before going out in the sun, and examining your skin regularly. Additionally, if you have a family history of skin cancer or you spend a lot of time outdoors, get a full body skin exam at least annually.2
A diagnosis of advanced melanoma can be very stressful
- Talk to your doctor to know what your diagnosis means and to find out about treatments that can help to shrink or stop your melanoma from growing. If your cancer is too advanced for treatment, your doctor can still do things to help control any symptoms/pain you may be experiencing
- Ask your doctor about any physical changes/fatigue you might expect in the future and how soon you might need to enlist some help either from a nurse or friends/family
- Ask for help from friends and family to provide emotional and physical support
- Join support groups that may be available in your area or online so you can talk to like-minded people
- Think about what your priorities are and make plans to do the things that are important to you. Planning and organizing might help you feel more in control of your diagnosis
- Go through the Resources section to find additional information
A diagnosis of advanced melanoma indicates that your cancer has spread to distant parts of the body. Depending on the extent of the spread and the number of organs involved, you may require specialists in various types of cancers to oversee your treatment. You will likely have a multidisciplinary team of doctors working towards the common goal of ensuring the best possible treatment plan for you.
Due to the risk of recurrence of melanoma and the higher risk of developing another one, your doctor will want to monitor you closely. This means follow-up with the doctor periodically to get lab tests or imaging done to look for any signs of cancer. The frequency of follow-up will depend on the severity of your disease. You may also be asked to perform skin and lymph node exams on yourself.
Ask your physician about the stage of your melanoma, about your treatment plan, what to expect during and after treatment, and any other questions that can help you make informed decisions about your healthcare options. Some examples are listed in the table.
If your cancer has relapsed or is not responsive after treatment, you may be eligible to enroll in a clinical trial that is testing new drugs for your condition. Talk to your doctor about your eligibility to be a part of an ongoing clinical trial. Check out the status of various ongoing clinical trials in the Resources section.
- Cancer Research UK. Symptoms of advanced melanoma. Last updated May 1, 2020. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/melanoma/advanced-melanoma/symptoms-advanced-melanoma
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Guidelines for Patients. Melanoma. Last Revised 2021. https://www.nccn.org/patients/guidelines/content/PDF/melanoma-patient.pdf
- Cancer Research UK. Coping with advanced melanoma. Last updated May 1, 2020. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/melanoma/advanced-melanoma/coping-advanced-melanoma
- American Cancer Society. Living as a Melanoma Skin Cancer Survivor. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/after-treatment/follow-up.html
- American Cancer Society. Questions to Ask About Melanoma Skin Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/talking-with-doctor.html
- US National Library of Medicine. Clinical Trials. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/home
All URLs accessed on January 9, 2023.