Carter Brings Awareness To Melanoma | KOLO 8

RENO, NV – Jimmy Carter’s recent announcement that cancer has spread to his brain took most people off guard. Especially when you consider the cancer started as a melanoma, or skin cancer. How can something outside the body make its way to internal organs is explained by a local dermatologist.

“I just thought I had a few weeks left, but I was surprisingly at ease. You know, I have had a wonderful life,” said former President Jimmy Carter as he publicly disclosed he had cancer.

The disease had spread to the liver and brain.

The cancer’s origin: melanoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer.

“5% of the melanomas can actually start internally. And we don’t know if they originate from the skin. But we never see them primarily. They just go internal. And that’s what has happened with Jimmy Carter,” says Reno dermatologist Dr. Cindy Lamerson with Nevada Center for Dermatology.

Doctors have not found the original melanoma site on Carter. He is being treated with immunotherapy drugs for the brain cancer and had radiation treatment for the liver cancer.

While his cancer represents a small percentage type of melanoma-caused cancer, for melanoma that starts on the skin, the mechanism is the same.

Dr. Lamerson shows us a model representing a cross section of skin.
In its earliest stages, melanoma in situ means it is just on the upper layers of skin. However, as the skin cancer starts to grow into lower layers of skin… the dermis… it can spread to nearby lymph nodes.

“To the blood stream to the lymph nodes and the when it does that it can go to the liver, the bones, the lungs and the brain,” says Dr. Lamerson.

Dr. Lamerson says melanoma can be caused by sun exposure, but family history can also play a role. To find it in its earliest and most curable stages, an exam by a dermatologist once a year is highly recommended.