Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that affects the pigment-producing cells. It can be difficult to diagnose because of its wide range of symptoms, and the only way to know for sure is through a biopsy. Melanoma has become much more common in recent years, especially among young adults. While this trend may be partially due to increased use of tanning beds and other UV light sources, there are also other factors at play that doctors need to consider when diagnosing you or your loved one with melanoma. For example:
Check your facts.
Before you share the news, make sure you have all the facts. If possible, check with a dermatologist or someone else who is knowledgeable about melanoma. If this is not an option for you, check with a friend or family member who has had melanoma themselves. The internet can be a great resource as well!
You should be confident in both yourself and your ability to help. If you feel nervous or unsure, keep that to yourself. Try not to get flustered or frustrated if the person is angry or upset with you. Instead, explain that you are there for support and understanding: “I know how scary this can be, but I want to make sure that we work together so you can get through this cancer as easily as possible.”
Provide a positive prognosis.
Provide a positive prognosis.
As you explain the treatment options and their possible side effects, make sure that you also provide an optimistic outlook. You can say something like “Melanoma is one of the most treatable cancers,” or “Having melanoma means you are more likely to live longer than someone without it.”
Offer to see the dermatologist with them.
When someone has been diagnosed with melanoma, their world may be turned upside down. They may have questions about what the doctor’s office will look like and how long it will take. They may feel anxious about getting their diagnosis confirmed in order to proceed with any treatment plan. You can help by offering to go along with them and providing support during this time of uncertainty.
As a caregiver, you can help your loved one feel more comfortable at their appointment by doing some research ahead of time and asking the right questions before they see the doctor. This could include:
- What are possible treatment options?
- What are side effects?
- Can I go into details about my loved one’s medical history without violating privacy laws?
Explain how common melanoma can be treated.
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in the U.S., but it can be cured if it’s found and treated early. In fact, about 90% of melanomas are curable when they’re detected and treated by a dermatologist who has experience with this cancer type.
That said, you should know that melanoma can sometimes spread from your skin to other parts of your body (metastasize), such as lymph nodes or internal organs. To find out how far the disease has spread, your doctor will send samples from your tumor for testing. The stage of your melanoma helps determine its outlook:
- Stage I: The cancer is only on top layers of skin or in an area where few cells have grown together (invasive). If melanoma is caught at this stage, treatment is usually successful because the cancer hasn’t spread beyond its original location yet—though it will likely be hard to completely get rid of every last cell if it’s at this level. The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with stage I melanoma is 95%.
- Stage II: This indicates that some spots have grown together into larger areas that are deeper under normal skin (in situ). Stage II also includes cancers that haven’t spread beneath those outer layers but may have started growing outward from them toward other parts of body like lymph nodes near where they were first found—and possibly even further than that depending on how large these spots get before being detected by doctors; about 20% who develop metastatic disease die within two years after diagnosis! While there isn’t much research available yet about how well treatments work for patients with this type versus others progressing faster toward death rates due
Tell them what to expect and what to do next.
In a gentle tone, explain what you’ve learned about the treatment options and any possible side effects from a dermatologist or other healthcare provider. Help them understand that melanoma can come back in the future if it’s not caught early enough and treated by a doctor. If your loved one is going to need surgery, let them know exactly what this procedure will entail so they can plan for it in advance if needed.
If your loved one feels like they’re ready to get started on their new treatment plan with a dermatologist or other healthcare provider, offer to accompany them on their first visit—so they don’t have to go through this alone!
Melanoma can be a difficult thing to find out about, but it is treatable.
Melanoma is a common type of skin cancer, but it can be cured if detected early. It’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any new spots or changes in moles on your body. There are many effective treatments available for melanoma, including surgery, radiation therapy and targeted treatment with medicines that fight the cancer cells specifically.
If you have been diagnosed with melanoma and would like to learn more about treatment options tailored to fit your personal health history and preferences, we encourage you to call 1-800-MELANOMA (1-800-635-2666).
Melanoma can be a difficult thing to find out about, but it is treatable. It’s important for the patient to know what their next steps are and have someone with them for support. If you or someone you know has melanoma and needs help understanding this information, please don’t hesitate to reach out.