What is advanced melanoma?

About advanced melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from cells called melanocytes. These cells give our skin its colour.

We have more information on the different types of melanoma, causes, risk factors and staging.

Melanoma is advanced when the cancer cells have spread from the original melanoma to other parts of the body. They may spread to other organs in the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. We have more information about lymph node assessment and treatment.

When the cancer cells from a tumour spread to a different part of the body, they grow into a new cancer (known as a secondary cancer or metastasis). A secondary cancer is always known by the area where it first started to grow (the primary site) and treated according to this. For example, a melanoma that starts in the skin may spread to the lungs. As the cancer in the lungs is made up of melanoma cells, it’s treated as a melanoma.

If melanoma spreads, it’s most likely to spread to one or more of the following areas of the body:

  • lymph nodes (sometimes called glands) distant from the original melanoma
  • areas of skin distant from the original melanoma
  • the lungs
  • the liver
  • the bones
  • the brain.

You may be diagnosed with advanced melanoma when a melanoma has come back in another part of your body. This can sometimes be years after the original melanoma was first removed. Rarely, advanced melanoma is diagnosed when the melanoma is removed and further tests show that it has spread.

Back to Understanding advanced melanoma

The skin

The skin is divided into two main layers: the outer layer known as the epidermis and a layer underneath called the dermis.

Why do cancers come back?

Sometimes, tiny cancer cells are left behind after cancer treatment. These can divide to form a new tumour.

How is it treated?

There are five main types of cancer treatment. You may receive one, or a combination of treatments, depending on your cancer type.