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Case Suggests Some Survive Metastatic Melanoma

Prolonged survival contradicts original metastatic cancer diagnosis

THURSDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The unusual 11-year survival of a patient diagnosed with stage IV metastatic malignant melanoma suggests that in some cases, the disease is not metastatic as originally believed, researchers report in the December issue of the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery. Five to 18 percent of patients with the diagnosis are expected to survive five years.

Patrick Tansley, M.D., of the Royal Free Hospital in London, U.K., and colleagues report on a 35-year-old smoking male diagnosed in 1993, three years after noticing a dark nodular lesion in his scapular region. Biopsy confirmed a malignant melanoma that was 6 millimeters deep with no epidermal involvement.

Despite a low expected five-year survival rate, the patient was followed up for 11 years without recurrence or regional lymphadenopathy symptoms, suggesting non-metastatic disease at diagnosis, the researchers report.

"Due to the prolonged survival and absence of an identified primary, it is unlikely that the lesion was metastatic but may represent one of a number of other possibilities," the authors write. "A small number of similar cases in the literature suggest a need for awareness of this unusual group of patients."

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