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Stages of Melanoma Skin Cancer and Treatments

Stages of Melanoma Skin Cancer and Treatments

Melanoma skin cancer is a type of skin cancer. And like every cancer type, there are 4 stages of melanoma and each stage indicates cancer progression. However, there are treatments to treat melanoma and kill cancerous cells.

In this article, you will be reading about melanoma, stages of melanoma, and stage-by-stage treatments. Discuss the suggestions with your doctor to help prevent and treat melanoma skin cancer.

Understanding the Stages of Melanoma

You suffer from melanoma skin cancer when your pigment-producing cells called melanocytes become cancerous.

Most pigment cells form in the skin. Melanomas can develop anywhere in the body, but there are specific areas that are at higher risk than others.

For example, women are more likely to see melanomas on their legs, while in men, it is the chest and back that are most affected. Other areas that melanoma can be seen include the face, eyes, and on rare occasions – intestines.

Stages of melanoma

Stages of melanoma skin cancer

Let’s look at each stage of melanoma skin cancer in detail and understand the progression of skin cancer.

Stages of Melanoma: Stage 0

Stage 0 melanoma is also called melanoma in situ. This means that your body has some abnormal melanocytes and present only in a particular area. Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin – a substance that adds pigment to the skin.

At this point, these cells could become cancerous, but they are just abnormal cells in the skin’s top layer. Melanoma in one place may look like a small mole.

Even though they look harmless, it is best that whenever you see a dark spot on the skin or mole, you get it checked with your doctor.

Stage 1

In stage 1A, the size of the tumour is about 1 mm thick. Also, it has no ulceration, which means the tumor has not broken down the skin.

Stage 1B can be either the tumour is between 1 mm and 2mm thick with no ulceration or it is up to 1 mm thick with some ulceration.

Stage 2

When the tumor has grown more than 2 mm thick, it indicates stage 2 melanoma. The doctor will see if the tumor is ulcerated or not. Your doctor will suggest undergoing tumour removal surgery to treat the condition. Also, your doctor may order a sentinel lymph node biopsy to check the progression of skin cancer.

Stage 3

At stage 3, the tumor can be of any size and shape. In this stage, cancer has spread to the lymph system.

Surgery can be one of the options to remove lymph nodes and tissues. Doctors may also suggest radiation therapy with other powerful medicines to treat stage 3.

Stage 4

Stage 4 melanoma means cancer has spread throughout the body. It may have spread to the brain, lungs, tissues, and lymph nodes.

Stage 4 is usually hard to cure with the treatments available. Doctors usually suggest palliative care for stage 4 cancer patients.

These are the 4 stages of melanoma skin cancer that you should know about.

With each stage, your doctor will suggest treatments and medications that would prevent cancer progression.

Stages of melanoma skin cancer treatments

Treatments for stage 0 melanoma

Stage 0 melanoma is usually treated by surgery to remove the melanoma and skin around it. The removed melanoma is sent to the lab for analysis. If the cancer cells are seen in the sample, the doctor will conduct another surgery.

Some doctors may suggest powerful medicines or radiation therapy instead of surgery. However, keep in mind this is not an option for everyone.

If the melanomas are on sensitive areas like on the face, the doctor may order Mohs surgery, which is a precise type of surgery that targets skin cancer.

Treatments for stage 1 melanoma

Stage 1 of melanoma is generally treated with the help of melanoma surgery. This surgery removes the tumor and the normal skin around it. The thickness and location of the melanoma help the doctor to know how much normal skin should be removed.

Some doctors may also recommend undergoing a sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) to find cancer in nearby lymph nodes. This procedure is suggested when you are in stage 1B or have some-what symptoms that indicate cancer spread.

Talk to your doctor to know the procedures, advantages, and various other things.

Treatments for stage 2 melanoma

Melanoma surgery is the standard treatment when you are at stage 2 melanoma.

As melanoma has started to spread around the body, your doctor will also order a sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB). SLNB helps the doctor to see if cancer has invaded lymph nodes or not.

If SLNB detects cancer cells in sentinel nodes, your doctor will suggest lymph node dissection – a procedure where lymph nodes are surgically removed.

If SLNB found cancer, your doctor will suggest additional treatment like targeted therapy drugs to lower the chances of melanoma recurrence.

Treatments for stage 3 melanoma

In stage 3, cancer cells have already infected the lymph nodes. At this stage, your doctor will order undergoing melanoma surgery along with lymph node dissection.

After surgery, your doctor will suggest additional treatments like targeted therapy drugs or immune checkpoint inhibitors. These suggested treatments can lower the risks of recurrence.

Another option that your doctor will suggest is radiation therapy. Your doctor will suggest using this therapy at the areas from where the lymph nodes were removed, especially the cancerous nodes.

Treatments for stage 4 melanoma

At this stage, the cancer cells have spread throughout the body although cancerous lymph nodes are removed or treated with radiation therapy.

Generally, the tissues and organs are removed or improved through treatments at earlier stages. The organs that show symptoms but cannot be removed are treated with therapies like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiation therapy.

In immunotherapy, doctors use powerful drugs to shrink tumors for long periods. Immunotherapy makes your immune system fight against cancerous cells. However, there are serious side effects of immunotherapy. This therapy makes people with stage 4 melanoma live longer.

In chemotherapy, doctors use some powerful drugs that destroy cancer cells completely. This therapy is the most common treatment for cancer patients as it shrinks the cancer cells around the body. However, you should know that there are numerous serious side effects of chemotherapy.

As stage 4 melanoma is often hard to treat and cure, doctors usually suggest palliative care for patients with stage 4.

These are the stages of melanoma skin cancer and treatments. Discuss the treatment options with your doctor.

Ensure you are following the treatments and medications suggested by the doctor. Ask for possible do’s and don’ts, lifestyle changes, and simple home remedies to help treat melanoma skin cancer.

Learn more about skin cancer and melanoma, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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MELANOMA: DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT/https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/melanoma/diagnose-treat/Accessed on 13/05/2020

Melanoma: Treatment Introduction/https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=34&contentid=17264-1/Accessed on 13/05/2020

Treatments for melanoma skin cancer/https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/skin-melanoma/treatment/?region=on/Accessed on 13/05/2020

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Melanoma Treatments/https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/melanoma/treatment/Accessed on 13/05/2020

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jun 30, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel