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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Primary gastrointestinal melanoma


Other Names for this Disease

  • Malignant melanoma of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Melanoma of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Melanoma of the GI tract
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I have been diagnosed with primary melanoma of the small intestine. I can't find any information on this type of cancer. Can you help? Is there anyway to find other people with this condition?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is primary melanoma of the gastrointestinal tract?

Primary melanoma of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract refers to a melanoma starting in the stomach, intestines, salivary glands, mouth, esophagus, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, or rectum. Melanoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the melanocytes. Melanocytes are commonly found in the skin and are the cells that give the skin color. While it is not uncommon for melanomas to start in the skin and later spread to other parts of the body, melanomas originating in the gastrointestinal tract are rare. The most frequently reported site is in the esophagus and anorectum.[1]
Last updated: 1/6/2009

What is primary melanoma of the small intestine?

Primary melanoma of the small intestine refers specifically to a melanoma starting in the small intestine. This cancer may be diagnosed in a person where no other primary site of melanoma can be found.[1][2][3] There remains controversy as to whether or not melanoma can really originate in the small intestine because melanocytes are very rarely found here.[1][2][3]
Last updated: 1/6/2009

What causes primary melanoma of the small intestine?

The cause of primary melanoma of the small intestine is currently unknown. Theories include that the cancer originated from a undetectable primary tumor that spontaneously (naturally) regressed on its own[1][2][3]; that the cancer originated from a primary tumor that is so small it can not be detected using standard clinical and laboratory investigations[2]; lastly, because melanocytes are not normally found in the stomach, a final theory is that the melanocytes are in the stomach because early melanocyte cells lost their way during the development of the baby in the womb, and that these misplaced cells later became cancerous.[1][2][3]
Last updated: 1/6/2009

What are the symptoms of primary melanoma of the small intestine?

Symptoms of primary melanoma of the small intestine can vary from person to person. Symptoms tend to be non-specific including nausea, vomiting, stomachache, fatigue, hemorrhage (broken blood vessels), and anemia (low red blood cell count).[1][2][3]
Last updated: 1/6/2009

How might primary melanoma of the small intestine be diagnosed?

A variety of tests may be involved in the initial diagnosis of the tumor, including contrast radiography, endoscopy, and CT scan.[2][3] The tumor is confirmed by surgical resection. Careful study of tissue samples from the tumor under a microscope will show the same immunohistochemical characteristics of skin melanomas.[2] Once this has been established, the following are proposed diagnostic criteria for primary melanoma of the small intestine:

1. The absence of a previous or synchronously resected melanoma or atypical melanocytic lesion of the skin.[1][2][3]

2. The absence of metastatic spread to other organs.[1][2][3]

3. The presence of intramucosal lesions of the overlying or adjacent intestinal mucosa.[1][2]

Last updated: 1/6/2009

How might primary melanoma of the small intestine be treated?

Treatment of primary melanoma of the small intestine often involves the surgical resection of the tumor.[1][2][3] We encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider to learn more about your surgical and other treatment options.
Last updated: 1/6/2009

What is the typical prognosis for people with primary melanoma of the small intestine?

The prognosis (chance of recovery) for people with primary melanoma of the small intestine varies from person to person. Important prognostic factors include if metastases are present at the time of diagnosis. The median survival after curative resection for malignant melanoma of the small intestine is estimated to be 48.9 months. The longest reported survival is 21 years.[2]
Last updated: 1/6/2009

How can I find other people with primary melanoma of the gastrointestinal tract?

There are rare cancer matching services that you can use that match people with similar cancer diagnoses.

The American Cancer Society has a cancer-matching service that is organized through local chapters.

American Cancer Society
Telephone: 1-800-ACS-2345
E-mail: http://www.cancer.org/asp/contactUs/cus_global.asp
Web site: www.cancer.org

MD Anderson Support Contact Program has a patient and caregiver matching program.

MD Anderson Support Contact Program
Telephone: 1-800-345-6324
E-mail: https://www2.mdanderson.org/sapp/contact/support.cfm

The R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation matches people with the same diagnosis. You can also volunteer to be a representative for a particular diagnosis.

R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation
Telephone: 1-800-433-0464
Fax: 1-816-931-7486

Last updated: 1/6/2009

References
  • Letovanec I, Vionnet M, Bouzourene H. . Primary appendiceal melanoma: Fiction or reality?. Human Pathol. 2004 May;
  • Atmatzidis KS et al.,. Primary malignant melanoma of the small intestine: Report of a case. Surg Today. 2002;
  • Lagoudianakis EE et al.,. Primary gastric melanoma: A case report. World J. Gastroenterology. 2006 July 21;
Other Names for this Disease
  • Malignant melanoma of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Melanoma of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Melanoma of the GI tract
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.