Melanoma is by far the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the number of newly diagnosed cases has doubled over the last few decades. However, treatment methods for melanoma and other types of cancer continue to advance, and some recent improvements in combination regimens and immunotherapy have improved outcomes for patients who have been diagnosed with the most serious types of cancer. Read on to learn more about what a metastatic melanoma diagnosis means, as well as some recent changes in the treatment protocol for metastatic melanoma.
What Does a Diagnosis of Metastatic Melanoma Mean?
Any type of metastatic cancer is cancer that began in one organ (in melanoma, the skin), spread to the lymph nodes, and traveled elsewhere in the body. Generally, cancers that are diagnosed as late stage 3 or stage 4 are considered metastatic. Metastatic cancer treatments can differ from other types of cancer treatments—instead of focusing on excising the cancerous growth and using radiation treatment as a sort of preventive maintenance to keep the cancer from spreading, metastatic cancer treatments must target cancer cells throughout the body, shrinking tumors while also stopping new cell growth.
For patients with a stage 3 or stage 4 melanoma diagnosis, this can often mean that treatment may be longer and more physically challenging than early-stage cancer treatment. Because of this, it's important to thoroughly review all your treatment options with your oncologist, seeking a second opinion if you'd like some confirmation that a recommended treatment plan is the right choice for your situation.
Metastatic Melanoma Treatment Options
One of the most promising new treatments for metastatic melanoma is immunotherapy. This treatment protocol creates a customized regimen of chemotherapy and other medication that's based on the specific genetic mutations that caused the cancer to begin in the first place. By targeting these mutations specifically, immunotherapy can often stop the spread of cancer in cases where a traditional chemotherapy and radiation regimen may not have been successful.
Although immunotherapy treatments have been on the rise in many types of genetically linked cancers (like certain breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers), it's only been recently that they've been explored in the melanoma context. And combination therapy, in which immunotherapy is used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation, has also shown some promising early results, although researchers are still analyzing which combinations and timelines are most effective in stopping the spread of cancer and shrinking tumors. Talk to a medical professional about melanoma cancer treatment today.