Metastatic melanoma has few FDA approved treatments, and aggressive surgical resection has to be considered for management of bulky axillary metastases. We hypothesized that axillary resection in this setting is well tolerated and improves symptoms in the majority of patients.Methods
We reviewed a prospectively collected database and identified 47 stage IIIC and IV patients with axillary nodal disease greater than 5 cm (68%), recurrent disease (36%), or disease adherent to axillary neurovascular structures (45%). Paresthesias, pain, and bleeding were present in 40% of patients, and were stable or improved after surgery in 75%. Most patients were asymptomatic prior to resection, and underwent resection for prevention of potential symptoms.Results
Most patients underwent outpatient surgery. Postoperative complications included lymphedema (34%), range of motion limitation (23%), wound infection (17%), and neuropathic pain (17%). Among symptomatic patients, average time to progression was 3 months, compared to 9.5 months in asymptomatic patients (P = 0.08). Five-year survival was lower (16%) in symptomatic patients than in asymptomatic patients (35%, P = 0.001).Discussion
Surgery for bulky axillary melanoma metastases is well tolerated, and should be considered in the management of Stage III or IV melanoma. Resection prior to symptoms may improve quality of life and is associated with longer survival.