Health > Mens > Melanoma
FOLLOW UP CARE & LIVING WITH MELANOMA
Follow up Care
Melanoma patients have an increased risk of developing new melanomas. Some also are at risk for a recurrence of the original melanoma in nearby skin or in other parts of the body.
To increase the chance that a new melanoma will be detected as early as possible, patients should follow their doctor's schedule for regular checkups. It is especially important for patients who have dysphasic nevi and a family history of melanoma to have frequent checkups. Patients also should examine their skin monthly and follow their doctor's advice about how to reduce their chance of developing another melanoma.
The chance of recurrence is greater for patients whose melanoma was thick or had spread to nearby tissue than for patients with very thin melanomas. Follow up care for those who have a high risk of recurrence may include x-rays, blood tests, and scans of the liver, bones, and brain.
Living With Cancer
The diagnosis of melanoma can change the lives of patients and the people who care about them. These changes can be hard to handle. Patients and their families and friends may have many different and sometimes confusing emotions.
At times, patients and those close to them may be frightened, angry, or depressed. These are normal reactions when people face a serious health problem. Many people handle these thoughts and feelings best when they share them with their loved ones. Sharing can help everyone feel more at ease and can open the way for others to show their concern and offer their support.
Worries about tests, treatments, hospital stays, and medical bills are common. Doctors, nurses, or other members of the health care team can help calm fears and ease confusion about treatment, working, or other activities. Patients may want to talk with them about the future, family relationships, finances, and other concerns. It also may help to talk with a social worker, counselor, or member of the clergy, especially about feelings and other personal matters.
Patients and their families are naturally concerned about what the future holds. Sometimes they use statistics to try to figure out whether the patient will be cured or how long he or she will live. It is important to remember, however, that statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They can't be used to predict what will happen to a certain patient because no two cancer patients are alike. The doctor who takes care of the patient and knows his or her medical history is in the best position to discuss the person's outlook (prognosis).
People should feel free to ask the doctor about their prognosis, but not even the doctor knows for sure what will happen. When doctors talk about surviving cancer, they may use the term remission rather than cure. Even though many patients who have early stage melanoma recover completely, doctors use this term because melanoma can recur.
Support For Cancer Patients
Living with a serious disease is hard for patients and those who care about them. Everyone involved faces problems and challenges. Finding the strength to cope with these difficulties is easier when people have helpful information and support services.
Friends and relatives, especially those who have had personal experience with cancer, can be very supportive. Also, many patients find it helpful to meet and talk with others who are facing problems like theirs. Cancer patients often get together in support groups, where they can share what they have learned about cancer and its treatment and about coping with the disease. It's important to keep in mind, however, that each patient is different. Treatments and ways of dealing with cancer that work for one person may not be right for another--even if they both have the same kind of cancer. It is always a good idea to discuss the advice of friends and family members with the doctor or nurse.
The health care team can recommend a variety of helpful resources. Often, a social worker at the hospital or clinic can suggest local and national groups that provide emotional support, financial aid, transportation, or home care. The American Cancer Society is one such group. This nonprofit organization has many services for patients and their families. Local offices of the American Cancer Society are listed in the white pages of the telephone book.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer