3 Important Post-Treatment Tips For Melanoma Survivors

Posted on: 28 June 2017

You probably expect to feel excited when you complete your melanoma skin cancer treatment. After all the time you spent living with cancer and undergoing treatment, it will be a relief to finally be done. However, don't be surprised if you end up feeling stressed about the end of your treatments too. You may worry about the cancer coming back or about developing another cancer. Taking care of yourself after your treatment is finished is just as important as taking care of yourself during your melanoma treatment. Take a look at some important tips for getting back to life as a melanoma survivor.

Create a Survivorship Plan

If you thought that your days of tests and doctor's appointments were over, you're probably going to be disappointed. It's important for melanoma survivors to have regular tests and exams, and your doctor may have other suggestions for you to follow about how to stay healthy. You may also experience long-term or late-presenting side effects from your treatment that need to be dealt with.

You and your doctor should work together to create a survivorship plan so that you know what to expect once your treatment is completed. This should include a schedule for your follow-up exams and tests so that you don't forget to schedule them when you need them. Your doctor will want to keep an eye on you even after treatment to make sure that your skin cancer hasn't returned. A survivorship plan may also include a list of side effects to watch for and what to do about them.

Learn When You Should Be Screened for Other Cancers

It's not uncommon for cancer survivors to develop a second cancer after their treatment has completed. After melanoma, the cancers that you're at the most risk for are a second melanoma or another type of skin cancer. However, there are other cancers that melanoma survivors are also at increased risk for, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

It's important to know when and whether you should be screened for these second cancers. Usually, it's recommended that melanoma survivors simply follow the usual cancer screening guidelines — for example, women who have had melanoma should receive mammograms yearly between the ages of 45 and 54, just like women who haven't had melanoma.

However, cancer screenings should be considered with your previous history in mind. Your doctor may recommend early or additional screenings for cancers that are common after melanoma, depending on your medical history. Also, it's important to make sure that if you change doctors, you provide them with a complete medical history so that they can make diagnoses and testing recommendations with your previous melanoma in mind.

Live a Cancer-Free Lifestyle

Because you're at increased risk of another skin cancer or another type of cancer entirely, it's important to make lifestyle changes that help decrease your risk of cancer. This can include avoiding tobacco, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

A cancer-free lifestyle for a melanoma survivor should also involve protecting your skin from the sun. A Yale University study found that more than a quarter of people who have had melanoma in the past report that they don't use sunscreen. Even greater numbers report that they don't wear hats or long sleeves outside, and some even report using tanning beds. Because melanoma patients have a higher risk for second skin cancers, this can be very dangerous behavior.

Being a melanoma survivor doesn't mean giving up an active outdoor life, but it does mean that you have to take greater measures to protect yourself from damaging UV rays that could cause another skin cancer. If you weren't in the habit of using sunscreen, long sleeves, and hats to keep the sun off your skin before you were diagnosed with melanoma, it's important that you get in the habit now. And you should definitely steer clear of tanning beds.

The road from diagnosis to treatment to post-treatment life is a long one, and you should be proud of yourself for making it. Now it's time to focus on living a healthy and safe life post-treatment. Get in touch with a doctor from a clinic like Center Of Dermatology PC/Herschel E Stoller MD if you have questions about your treatment options.