While all melanoma is serious, the majority of it can be treated simply by surgically removing the offending spot. But every now and again, a patient might be diagnosed with a serious invasive melanoma cancer for which the treatment is likely to be considerably more involved than just simple surgery.
First things first though. If a melanoma is serious, it will be removed before it has further chance to spread. Then depending on the thickness of the tumour, or ulceration around the spot, the Dr will conduct further testing to assess the involvement of the body’s lymph system or other organs. You might like to read Melanoma diagnosis – now what?
But should you ever be faced with being told that your melanoma is serious, or at least more serious than you might have first thought, you’ll want to have a plan for what happens next.
If your melanoma is serious – you’ll need a plan & some questions to ask
No, not as in planning for the worst, but rather what you need from the meeting that follows. Given it’s likely to be a stressful meeting, you’ll want to take someone with you.
To ensure that you and your ‘healthcare meeting partner’ are as prepared as possible, having a list of questions you can ask of your doctor can help you get the most out of the meeting. You might use this list to think through what you need to know. Of course you can ask other questions, this list is just a starting point.
You might find it useful to print out the list of questions in advance and then have your partner write the answers down as the meeting progresses. That way you’ll make sure you’ve got the answers you need – at least for now.
What other tests do you need if your melanoma is serious?
For example, your doctor may require a special test called sentinel node biopsy to determine if your lymph nodes near your melanoma are affected. You have lymph nodesthroughoutt your body, however concentrated numbers can be found in the neck, armpit, and groin areas. If your test results show your nodes are clear of the melanoma, you will generally not need any further surgery. However, if the melanoma appears to have spread to your lymph nodes, you will likely need to undergo an operation with a specialist. The type of surgery you need depends on where the primary melanoma was situated in your body.
Has the melanoma spread to other parts of my body?
You may have heard that cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma that has returned or spread to other parts of the body is known as secondary cancer or metastases.
What are my treatment options?
A variety of treatments may be available. These can range from radiation, targeted therapies, immunotherapy and/or chemotherapy. Your doctor will discuss the merits of each with you. They will also take into account how far the melanoma has progressed and your age and general health.
What can I expect during treatment?
Depending on the treatment your doctor suggests for you, they’ll also talk you through how long each treatment will last, how often you’ll need to go for treatment and the potential side effects associated with the treatment.
What changes should I anticipate?
Depending on the surgery and treatment required, you might need to prepare for some changes that take place. This might be a reduced range of movement, especially whilst your body heals, or it might be hair loss from chemotherapy treatment. Whatever it is for you, you might also consider getting in touch with a Melanoma support group – either online or in person. Melanoma Australia have several support groups across Australia (including one at North Sydney
How likely is it that my family members could get melanoma?
Whilst there’s no hard and fast rule here, we do know that having family history of melanoma in increases the likelihood of diagnosis. But so too does spending time in sun, sunburn as a child or repeatedly tanning your skin.
So for your family the best thing you can do is ensure that they apply a high SPF factor sunscreen religiously when outdoors and protect their skin by covering up with long sleeves/pants, hats and sunnies and seeking shade in the middle of the day.
If you suspect a spot on your body might be skin cancer, please get it checked out as soon as possible. The earlier skin cancer is detected, the earlier treatment can begin and the better the outcomes. You can call us on 9999 0336 (Northern Beaches clinic) or 9223 1608 (Sydney City clinic) or you can pop your details in the form below and we’ll get back to you shortly with our next available appointment.
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Either way, it might be the best thing you do for yourself today.