FINDING A DOCTOR
The Doctor who gave you your diagnosis may not be the right person to treat you. Ask about their experience with the skin cancer you are diagnosed with; if they are not experienced, ask for referrals to other doctors in your area with more expertise.
You should ensure the Doctor who will help you through your journey with skin cancer is both experienced with your specific diagnosis and understands you.
Questions to Ask your Doctor
It is important to ask your doctor any questions you might have. Some questions might be difficult for you to ask – and for your doctor to answer – but ask them anyway. Write questions down when you think of them so you have a list at the time of your appointment.
When you are being given answers by your doctor, make written notes and ask for answers to be repeated or explained if there’s something you miss or don’t understand. It’s always useful to have a friend or family member with you at an appointment to take notes, to help remember things and give you someone to discuss the appointment with afterwards.
Some of the things you will likely want to ask about are:
- What stage of melanoma do I have?
- What are the available treatments for this stage of melanoma?
- Will I have more than one treatment?
- What are the risks and benefits of each treatment for melanoma?
- Will my age, stage of melanoma, and other health conditions limit my treatment choices?
- Do I have to get treated?
- Where will I be treated? Will I have to stay in the hospital or can I go home after each treatment?
- What can I do to prepare for treatment? Should I stop taking my medications?
- How soon should I start treatment? How long does treatment take?
- How much will the treatment cost? How can I find out how much my insurance company will cover?
- How likely is it that I’ll be cancer-free after treatment?
- What symptoms should I look out for while being treated for melanoma?
- When will I be able to return to my normal activities?
- What is the chance that the melanoma will come back or spread?
- What should I do after I finish treatment?
- Are there supportive services that I can get involved in? Support groups?
Staging is commonly used in melanoma diagnosis and treatment to indicate the advancement and severity and cancer in a patient. Melanoma stages range between 0-IV based on the TNM (tumour, nodes, metastasis) system. The TNM system is dictated by the size of the primary (first) tumour, the occurrence of cancer cells in the surrounding lymph nodes, whether the cancer has metastasized (spread to other regions in the body), and whether there is ulceration (if there is ulceration, the skin covering the melanoma cannot clearly be seen). While these figures can be intimidating in the later stages, the staging system is imperative for dictating the treatment process a patient will undergo.
Stage 0 is thin melanoma which has not penetrated (invaded) the deeper layers of the skin (in situ).
Stages I and II are melanomas that are limited to the skin. These melanomas vary in how thick they are and whether the skin covering the melanoma is ulcerated or not. Thicker melanomas and ulcerated melanomas have a higher risk of recurring.
Stage III is melanoma that has spread from the original site of your melanoma to 1 or more of the nearby lymph nodes or to the nearby skin/tissue in between. Stage III melanoma is divided into 4 groups, A, B, C, and D.
Stage IV is melanoma that has spread farther than regional lymph nodes, to distant sites such as the lung, liver, or brain.
To read more information about melanoma staging CLICK HERE
There are several treatments for skin cancer. Your melanoma diagnosis, age, location, and general health are some of the factors that should be taken into account when you are considering your options. Treatments exist in the following broad categories that could be tailored to fit your needs: