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The most common type of cancer across the United States is skin cancer. In fact, it is so common that one in five Americans will develop the disease during their life.
There are three main types of skin cancer: the less serious and highly curable basal cell and squamous cell cancers, and the more serious melanoma. Late-stage melanoma can often prove fatal if left untreated, as it cannot be easily controlled and may spread to the patient’s other organs.
Like non-melanoma cancers, melanoma usually responds well to cancer treatments. But its severity when left untreated makes it the most dangerous form of skin cancer, with more than 7,000 people dying of melanoma annually.
Can You Die From Melanoma?
You can die from skin cancer; however, if caught early on, non-melanoma types of skin cancer are easily treatable. If treatment begins early, people with non-melanoma types of skin cancer will likely make a full recovery.
Melanoma can also be treated effectively if it is discovered early on. It is more dangerous, however, especially if left untreated.
The stage 4 skin cancer survival rate differs depending on what kind of cancer you have, as melanoma and non-melanoma types of skin cancer have different survival rates from each other. Where only 2,000 people die annually from basal cell and squamous cell cancers, over 7,000—over three times as many people—die every year from melanoma.
What Are the Symptoms of Late Stage Melanoma?
It is important to try and diagnose melanoma as early as possible, as it is such a dangerous form of skin cancer. Stage 4 melanoma can be diagnosed from several symptoms, however.
Some of the symptoms of end-stage skin cancer include:
- Random pains throughout the body.
- Extreme unintentional weight loss.
- Firm lumps on the skin.
- Swollen/hard lymph nodes.
- Extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest.
Different types of skin cancer may also appear differently on the skin. For example, signs of melanoma most often include potentially painful or itchy lesions; dark brown spots on the skin, accompanied by dark speckles; or moles that bleed, or change in appearance or feel.
How Is Late-Stage Melanoma Diagnosed?
There are several methods that can be used to diagnose end-stage skin cancer. Your physician may perform biopsies to test for cancer. They also may perform imaging and ultrasound scans to find out where in your body the cancer has spread. Your doctor may also perform blood tests to determine your liver function and blood cell count.
Late-stage melanoma is very dangerous, but a diagnosis as soon as possible can give the treatment a better chance of working.
What Treatments Are Available for Late-Stage Melanoma?
Stage 4 melanoma is difficult to treat, as it is not easy to find all the cancerous cells in the body once the cancer has spread. However, it is still possible to treat the disease with a variety of different therapies, including:
- Radiation therapy.
- Targeted therapy.
What Support Is Available for Late-Stage Skin Cancer?
Hospice services are available to patients with terminal melanoma who have been given six or fewer months to live and if the patient has made the decision to cease curative treatments to instead focus on their quality of life.
The services provided by a hospice care team help to support the patient and their family across the board. In the final days of melanoma, hospice care professionals, together with the patient’s physician, will arrange for full-time care where the patient is living. Any medical supplies the patient might need for their melanoma diagnosis, from medical equipment to medication, will be sent to the patient’s place of residence.
A variety of professionals and volunteers will attend to whatever support needs the patient and their family may have. Nurses will help manage the patient’s symptoms by providing nursing care, whereas personal needs will be taken care of by hospice aides. A network of social workers, chaplains, and volunteers are available to attend to the emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and their family.
When you or a loved one are diagnosed with terminal skin cancer, it is without exception a stressful and difficult time for the family. Hospice care can provide emotional support and assistance with caregiving that can help alleviate some of this stress, letting cancer patients enjoy the time they have left with their families.
If you would like to find out more about hospice care for late-stage melanoma patients, you give All American Hospice a call for information on eligibility and services.