Melanoma is one of the most serious types of skin cancer. It is often located in areas of sun-damaged skin such as the face, arms, shoulders, and back but can be found in any area of the body. A diagnosis of melanoma can seem overwhelming and you may have questions about what a diagnosis means and what to expect. The video below shares some commonly asked questions about melanoma.
Melanoma is a very specific type of skin cancer. Anytime someone's been diagnosed with cancer, it's very overwhelming to hear that information. But the encouraging news is that we have many options for the treatment of melanoma. Those options are mostly dependent on the stage of your melanoma.
Q. What are the stages of melanoma?
The staging of melanoma is usually done at your consultation and with your melanoma provider. The stages range from stage one to stage four. Stage one and two are early-stage melanomas. Typically, all that is needed for that these is surgery. The encouraging thing is that that surgery is usually able to be done on an outpatient basis with relatively minimal recovery.
As the stages go up, we start looking at other forms of treatment and potentially other testing. That might mean more imaging testing and potentially more extensive surgery. Stage three melanoma is when the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes nearby, which is the route that if it does spread, it usually likes to takeit usually takes. Stage four melanoma is when it has spread to other organs in the body. These situations become a little bit more complex. At that time, we use our multispecialty team to put together a treatment plan that's catered to you.
Q. What types of treatments are available for melanoma?
What's unique about Spectrum Health is that we have a variety of options available for the treatment of melanoma. For early-stage cases, we have an experienced surgical team that can help you through the process from diagnosis to recovery. For more complicated cases we include advanced surgical techniques, such as minimally invasive surgical options and things like isolated limb infusion or injectable treatments that can be given in the office. In these complex cases, surgical options are typically combined with medical treatments to achieve the best outcomes. For melanoma, chemotherapy is rarely used as there are more effective, less toxic, treatments such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
Q. How is treatment managed?
Treatment at Spectrum Health is managed in a multispecialty fashion. We utilize the expertise from each of the specialties that takes care of melanoma, and we put our heads together to come up with a treatment plan that's best for you.
Q. What is unique about Spectrum Health’s approach to treating melanoma?
For patients who are diagnosed with melanoma, we have comprehensive services available here at Spectrum Health. These include things like culinary medicine to help with nutrition, nurse navigators to help guide you through the process with appointments and the various specialists that you'll meet with. We have social workers to help with stress. There are financial planners to help with the financial aspect of things. We're here to make sure that you're completely cared for in all aspects of your care and not just the treatment of your melanoma.
Q. What can I expect from my first visit?
At your first visit when you've been diagnosed with melanoma, you'll typically meet with a surgeon who will talk to you more about the treatment options that are available to you. Those consultations typically take 30 minutes to an hour. You'll learn more about the stage of melanoma that you've been diagnosed with and the next steps to take and treatment. We know that that first consultation can be overwhelming, and there may be questions that pop up afterwards. Please don't hesitate to contact your surgeon's office. That can be done either by phone or via the Spectrum Health app. Your nurse navigator may also be a helpful resource to contact if there are further questions about your treatment plan.
Q. What advice would you give to patients undergoing treatment for melanoma?
For patients that are undergoing treatment, it's very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes things that help your immune system such as low-fat diet, regular exercise, and maintaining good sleep patterns. We also want you to stay in touch with your body. If you notice that you're experiencing new symptoms, please let somebody from your treatment team know.