BRAF MUTATION AND INHIBITOR TREATMENTS
BRAF is a human gene that produces the protein b-raf, which is involved in cell growth and division. It has been discovered that, occasionally, these genes are mutated in cancers; this mutation, called the BRAF V600, allows opportunities for cancers to be treated with a BRAF inhibitor.
Approximately half of melanoma skin cancers have a mutation in the BRAF gene, and some of the BRAF-inhibitor (or targeted chemotherapy) single-agent drugs currently used to treat BRAF-positive melanoma include vemurafenib (Zelboraf), combimetinib (Cotellic), dabrafenib (Tafinlar), and trametinib (Mekinist), and trametinib and dabrafenib are also available as a combination therapy.
A more up-to-date list of available treatments can be found on the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) website’s Provincial drug formulary database, which can be accessed here. For more information about BRAF inhibitor therapies and whether they might be an option for you, ask your Doctor.
FOLLOW-UP AND MONITORING
Follow-up after melanoma treatment depends on the stage of the melanoma. A melanoma diagnosis increases the risk of another melanoma. Therefore, your doctor will perform a full-body skin examination, at least every year, for the rest of your life.
Your doctor will also teach you how to examine your skin and lymph nodes. You should examine your skin at least monthly. Make sure you check the back of your body. Use a mirror or have someone check for you. Look for changes in moles, any new growths, sores that do not heal, and abnormal areas of skin.
Contact your doctor right away if you notice any abnormalities. Your doctor may also recommend that you examine your lymph nodes every month. A schedule like the following one is followed if you have no signs or symptoms of melanoma.
If you do develop new signs or symptoms, your doctor will investigate them and determine appropriate treatment and follow-up based on your test results.
More information about melanoma staging can be found here.