You may know of the first signs and symptoms associated with melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer. The initial signs include changes in a mole, such as changes in its shape, size and color, as well as new growths or spots on the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. But you may not be aware of the other symptoms that transcend what is seen on the skin, those that impact how the body fights off infections and zap energy.
Of all the skin disorders, melanoma is the most deadly. This type of skin cancer impacts the cells that give skin its color, according to Aetna Intelihealth. If caught early, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent, but once it spreads to other parts of the body that rate drops to 20 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
Changes to the size or color of a mole or freckle may not cause a person to see a doctor as quickly as she should, but extreme fatigue might. By the time that exhaustion hits, it may be too late, as extreme tiredness is attributed to late-stage melanoma, according to the International Journal for Cancer Research and Treatment. Late-stage melanoma is known as stage 4, and in this stage fatigue is often also accompanied by a lack of appetite and weight loss, as well as pain, disordered sleep and shortness of breath.
A melanoma patient's energy takes a hit, as does her immune system. The body's ability to fight off infection and sickness is weakened, according to the American Cancer Society. The result is often feverish symptoms, as well as headache and pain in the abdomen. Many of the cancer-fighting therapies aim to rejuvenate the immune system and better ward off attacks that put those with later-stage melanoma at even greater risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American Cancer Society has several theories as to why those with melanoma experience extreme tiredness and struggle with a suppressed immune system. It's believed that the cancer cells use up most of the body's energy supply, in turn causing the body to feel extremely tired. These cells also use the immune system in ways it typically isn't used, diminishing its ability to react to infections as it once did.
Fatigue and other symptoms associated with immuno-suppression usually occur long after the first changes in a mole or spot have occurred. By this time the cancer may have spread to the brain, liver and bones, according to the International Journal for Cancer Research and Treatment. In cases where treatment is successful, usually a patient's energy and other accompanying symptoms are restored within six months to a year, according to Cancer Research UK.