Every patient who has been treated for this cancer is at risk for it spreading. However, when the original tumor (primary melanoma) is less than one millimeter thick (considered thin), removing it surgically has a 95 percent cure rate, due to it being confined to the top skin layers and being unlikely to spread, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. However, it is important to keep in mind that five percent of thin melanomas are not completely cured when removed surgically, so it is important that patients go to all scheduled doctor's appointments and regularly do their self-examinations of their skin, as well as their lymph nodes.
When it is suspected that this cancer has spread, diagnostic testing will be done to determine if it has spread, and to where it has spread. Once this cancer has spread to the lymph nodes located closest to the original tumor, there is a chance that it will spread to other organs and lymph nodes. Once this cancer has spread to other organs and lymph nodes, it is in stage IV, which always has a poor prognosis. Treatment including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, selective surgical excision and immunotherapy, is often given in stage IV, but they are not guaranteed to cure this cancer. Stage IV melanoma patients can survive, but the odds are not good in many cases.
So, how fast does melanoma spread? This is an unanswerable question. However, there are statistics available through the American Academy of Dermatology explaining the likelihood of melanoma spreading to other organs. These statistics are as follows:
- Other areas of skin and lymph nodes: 50 to 75 percent
- Liver: 54 to 77 percent
- Bone: 23 to 49 percent
- Heart: 40 to 45 percent
- Adrenal glands: 36 to 54 percent
- Thyroid: 25 to 39 percent
- Lungs and between the lungs: 70 to 87 percent
- Brain: 36 to 54 percent
- Gastrointestinal tract: 26 to 58 percent
- Pancreas: 38 to 53 percent
- Kidneys: 35 to 48 percent