Melanoma is an especially intimidating form of cancer, but there are many people who beat melanoma, especially if it is caught in the early stages. After successful treatment, the chance of recurrence is a real threat. Staying vigilant is the best way to catch a recurrence if it occurs.
Know Signs Of Recurrence
Anyone who has beat cancer is rightfully concerned about recurrence, so it is not uncommon to feel like any new symptoms or common illnesses are a sign of recurrence. Do regular skin evaluations to monitor for suspicious lesions. If anything looks unusual, especially if it occurs at or near the same location as your previous melanoma lesion, this should be discussed with your doctor immediately. As far as physical symptoms go, it will not be easy to identify a recurrence versus expected symptoms if you are not far removed from cancer treatment. If you had chemotherapy, many people deal with fatigue and other symptoms for months after treatment cessation. Watch for any physical symptoms that are new or worse. New or unusual aches and pains, seizures, or any other startling symptoms are especially worrisome.
Maintain Your Follow-Up Schedule
Your follow-up schedule with your oncologist and other members of your care team are vital for catching a melanoma occurrence as quickly as possible. At your follow-up appointment, your doctor will do a physical evaluation and also want to discuss any new or worsening symptoms you have noticed. At regular intervals, you will have imaging tests that can help doctors find any masses that may be growing internally. Also, PET scans might be used to identify any areas that are metabolically more active than others, which can be a sign of cancer recurrence. It is not necessary to be immediately alarmed if something unusual appears on these tests. If you had radiation therapy, it is not uncommon for areas to be concerning, but only amount to scar tissue or some other benign issue.
Understand What To Expect During Recurrence
Since melanoma is known as an aggressive form of cancer, if it recurs it is likely to be found at more distant sites than the primary tumor. There are many different variables that will affect your treatment plan if melanoma recurs. Surgery is usually the first step to remove external lesions and any internal tumors that are accessible. Generally, radiation therapy and chemo will also be necessary to tackle cancer cells, especially if they are found in the lymph nodes at distant sites through the body and in organs. Your doctors may want to be more aggressive with any chemotherapy and radiation during recurrence. Immunotherapy might be another viable option, which can help the body attack cancer cells by recruiting your natural defense mechanisms.
After you have beat melanoma, staying vigilant about your health and adhering to scheduled visits with melanoma cancer treatment service professionals will give you the best chance at catching a recurrence, if it happens.