About advanced melanoma

Advanced melanoma means the melanoma has spread from where it started to another part of the body. It is also called stage 4 melanoma.

Your melanoma may have already spread when it was diagnosed. Or it may have come back in another part of the body some time after your first diagnosis and treatment. Doctors call this recurrent cancer.

Cancer that has spread to another part of the body is called secondary cancer or metastases.

Modern treatments may control melanoma for a long time. And in a small number of patients, there are hopes they may be cured, or treatment can have long term control. 

Where melanoma spreads

Melanoma can spread to almost anywhere in the body but the most common places for it to spread are the:

  • lymph nodes
  • lungs
  • liver
  • bones
  • brain
  • tummy (abdomen)
Diagram showing the most common places for melanoma to spread to

How you might feel

Finding out you have advanced melanoma can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious and not be able to think about anything else.

Treatments are available that can shrink the melanoma or stop it growing. It might be possible to control it for quite a while. You will need to talk very carefully to your own specialist to understand:

  • what your diagnosis means
  • what’s likely to happen
  • what treatments are available
  • how treatment can help you

Although you have advanced cancer, it might be months or sometimes years before doctors can no longer control the melanoma.

Some people are diagnosed with melanoma when it is too far advanced for treatment to be able to control the cancer.  If this happens then your doctor will still be able to do things to help control any symptoms you may have. 

There is lots of information and support available to you and your family and friends. Some days you might want lots of information and on others it might be too much for you. It can help to find out more about your cancer and the different treatments you can have. Many people find that knowing more about their situation can make it easier to cope. 

Last reviewed: 
01 May 2020
Next review due: 
01 May 2023
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