Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Tumor thickness, as well as the involvement of the lymph nodes, often indicates the cancer's stage, as well as to the long term prognosis.
Melanoma begins in the cells of your skin which produces your skin's color (pigment). Although melanoma is typically a serious form of skin cancer, it can also begin in your eyes or internal organs.
The spread of the melanoma to the lymph nodes, and the thickness and depth of the tumor, are criteria used to determine the melanoma stage (I-IV). Stages I to III hold the best prognosis, while stages IV and V have the greatest chance for recurrence and an unfavorable outcome.
Melanomas can spread and invade the lymph nodes. The first node(s) that it reaches is called the sentinel node. UCLA researchers have determined that cancer cells which invade the sentinel node can effectively disable the immune capabilities of the lymph node, allowing the cancer to more easily spread throughout the body.
Treatment with lymph node involvement
In years past, physicians removed all lymph nodes located near the primary tumor. However, due to the serious side effects from widespread lymph node removal, doctors have revised this protocol to include removal of just the sentinel node.
Your prognosis for survival becomes much higher if your melanoma gets caught early and has not spread to the lymph nodes. The lymph system provides a widespread channel for the cancer cells to distribute throughout the body, making treatment, and a cure, difficult.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of daniel sandoval