Why does melanoma come back?

Sometimes cancer can come back. This can happen because tiny cancer cells, which cannot be seen with the naked eye or on scans, can sometimes be left behind after cancer treatment. Unfortunately, no treatment is guaranteed to be 100% effective.

Over time, these cancer cells can begin to divide again and form a tumour.

Most melanomas are successfully treated with surgery. Sometimes melanoma cells can remain, and in some people the melanoma might come back – sometimes many years later.

If melanoma comes back in the same area of the body, it is known as a local recurrence or recurrent melanoma. Occasionally, melanomas come back as ‘clusters’ of melanomas. The clusters are in the same area as the original melanoma, but a bit further away. Doctors sometimes call these satellite or in-transit lesions.

Sometimes melanoma cells spread to a different part of the body, where they grow into a new cancer called a secondary cancer or metastasis. When melanoma comes back in a different part of the body, it is known as advanced cancer.

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