Possible Side Effects What To Expect With Your Melanoma Treatment
How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also differ in timings and duration and depend on what treatments or combinations of treatments you are having. Examples of these are targeted therapy, immunotherapy, , or radiotherapy less common for melanoma.
Your healthcare team will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your team advice line as soon as possible if:
you experience severe side effects
your side effects arent getting any better
your side effects are getting worse
Our Melanoma Helplineis also here to support you.
Contact us anytime on:
Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Bone
You might have any of the following symptoms if your cancer has spread to the bones:
- pain from breakdown of the bone the pain is continuous and people often describe it as gnawing
- backache, which gets worse despite resting
- weaker bones they can break more easily
- raised blood calcium , which can cause dehydration, confusion, sickness, tummy pain and constipation
- low levels of blood cells blood cells are made in the bone marrow and can be crowded out by the cancer cells, causing anaemia, increased risk of infection, bruising and bleeding
Cancer in the spinal bones can cause pressure on the spinal cord. If it isn’t treated, it can lead to weakness in your legs, numbness, paralysis and loss of bladder and bowel control . This is called spinal cord compression. It is an emergency so if you have these symptoms, you need to contact your cancer specialist straight away or go to the accident and emergency department.
Behavioral Surveillance Data On Uv Exposure
Because of the long lag time from UV exposure to development of skin cancer, self-reported behaviors and sunburn are often used as more immediate measures by which the success of skin cancer prevention efforts can be evaluated. Although any amount of UV exposure can affect skin cancer risk, entirely avoiding UV from the sun is neither realistic nor advisable. Spending time outdoors can provide opportunities for increased physical activity and improved mental health., Sun protection can help reduce risks of overexposure to UV when spending time outdoors.
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Look Out For An Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling is another warning sign of melanoma. This recognition strategy is based on the concept that most normal moles on your body resemble one another, while melanomas stand out like ugly ducklings in comparison. This highlights the importance of not just checking for irregularities, but also comparing any suspicious spot to surrounding moles to determine whether it looks different from its neighbors. These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Also, isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.
What Is The Uv Index
In order to address the growing concern by Canadians regarding changes in UVR resulting from ozone depletion, Environment Canada rates the UV intensity as UV Index on a scale of 0 to 11+ . It can go to the mid-teens at midday in the tropics. In Canada the UV Index is categorized into low , moderate , high , very high and extreme .
The human health effects and precautions relating to the UV Index are summarized in the following table.
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How Is Melanoma Treated
Your melanoma treatment will depend on the stage of the melanoma and your general health.
Surgery is usually the main treatment for melanoma. The procedure involves cutting out the cancer and some of the normal skin surrounding it. The amount of healthy skin removed will depend on the size and location of the skin cancer. Typically, surgical excision of melanoma can be performed under local anesthesia in the dermatologist’s office. More advanced cases may require other types of treatment in addition to or instead of surgery.
Treatments for melanoma:
- Melanoma Surgery: In the early stages, surgery has a high probability of being able to cure your melanoma. Usually performed in an office, a dermatologist numbs the skin with a local anesthetic and removes the melanoma and margins .
- Lymphadenectomy: In cases where melanoma has spread, removal of the lymph nodes near the primary diagnosis site may be required. This can prevent the spread to other areas of your body.
- Metastasectomy: Metastasectomy is used to remove small melanoma bits from organs.
- Targeted cancer therapy: In this treatment option, drugs are used to attack specific cancer cells. This targeted approach goes after cancer cells, leaving healthy cells untouched.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy includes treatments with high-energy rays to attack cancer cells and shrink tumors.
- Immunotherapy: immunotherapy stimulates your own immune system to help fight the cancer.
Flat Red Patches And Rashes
One type of cancer that affects the skin, T-cell lymphoma, often begins with very itchy, flat, red patches and plaques that are easily mistaken for eczema or psoriasis.
One type of T-cell lymphoma, mycosis fungoids, transitions from these patches to dome-shaped nodules, and then to extensive reddened areas on multiple areas of the body. It may spread to lymph nodes and other regions of the body such as the lungs, liver, and bones. T-cell lymphomas most often begin on the buttocks, groin, hips, armpits, and chest.
Other cancers, such as breast cancer, may spread to the skin and initially be mistaken for a benign rash. Inflammatory breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that originates in the skin and appears, at first, to be an eczematous type of rash.
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Unusual Moles Exposure To Sunlight And Health History Can Affect The Risk Of Melanoma
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk.
Risk factors for melanoma include the following:
- Having a fair complexion, which includes the following:
- Fair skin that freckles and burns easily, does not tan, or tans poorly.
- Blue or green or other light-colored eyes.
- Red or blond hair.
Being White or having a fair complexion increases the risk of melanoma, but anyone can have melanoma, including people with dark skin.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information on risk factors for melanoma:
There Are Different Types Of Cancer That Start In The Skin
There are two main forms of skin cancer: melanoma and nonmelanoma.
Melanoma is a rare form of skin cancer. It is more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body than other types of skin cancer. When melanoma starts in the skin, it is called cutaneous melanoma. Melanoma may also occur in mucous membranes . This PDQ summary is about cutaneous melanoma and melanoma that affects the mucous membranes.
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Check If You Are High Risk
Examples of factors that may put you at higher than average risk include:
- a family history of melanoma, for example, a first-degree blood relative such as a mother, father, brother, sister or child with a history of melanoma
- a personal history of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin
- taking medications that weaken the bodys immune response or make skin more sensitive to the sun
What Does Melanoma Look Like
Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in melanocytes . Below are photos of melanoma that formed on the skin. Melanoma can also start in the eye, the intestines, or other areas of the body with pigmented tissues.
Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. However, melanoma may also appear as a new mole. People should tell their doctor if they notice any changes on the skin. The only way to diagnose melanoma is to remove tissue and check it for cancer cells.
Thinking of “ABCDE” can help you remember what to look for:
- Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.
- Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
- Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
- Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea .
- Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.
Melanomas can vary greatly in how they look. Many show all of the ABCDE features. However, some may show changes or abnormal areas in only one or two of the ABCDE features.
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Treating Stage 3 Melanoma
If the melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes , further surgery may be needed to remove them.
Stage 3 melanoma may be diagnosed by a sentinel node biopsy, or you or a member of your treatment team may have felt a lump in your lymph nodes.
The diagnosis of melanoma is usually confirmed using a needle biopsy .
Removing the affected lymph nodes is done under general anaesthetic.
The procedure, called a lymph node dissection, can disrupt the lymphatic system, leading to a build-up of fluids in your limbs. This is known as lymphoedema.
Cancer Research UK has more information about surgery to remove lymph nodes.
Increased Rate Of Aging Of The Skin
Repeated exposure to the suns ultraviolet radiation eventually causes skin damage similar to the aging process. Patches of skin become thin and less elastic, and develop blemishes, sun freckles, and wrinkles. These changes may take many years of exposure but when they occur, the damage is irreversible.
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Complementary And Alternative Treatments
It’s common for people with cancer to seek out complementary or alternative treatments. When used alongside your conventional cancer treatment, some of these therapies can make you feel better and improve your quality of life. Others may not be so helpful and in some cases may be harmful.
It is important to tell all your healthcare professionals about any complementary medicines you are taking. Never stop taking your conventional treatment without consulting your doctor first.
All treatments can have side effects. These days, new treatments are available that can help to make many side effects much less severe than they were in the past.
The Impact On Your Job
You may need to take time off work at various times during the period leading up to your diagnosis and for treatment. For some people, their treatment programme may be such that they have to take an extended period of time away from work. If you are in this situation, when you go back to work, or if you go back to work at all will be a very individual decision. It may depend on the type of work you do , your age at diagnosis, your prognosis and the effects of treatment on your well-being and ability to work.
For many people getting back into a normal routine is an important part of recovering from treatment and living with a chronic illness. However, if full-time work is not possible owing to fatigue issues or other health reasons, talk to your employer about part-time possibilities.
For some people, recovery and healing from cancer treatment can take a long time and it may be many months before you feel able to return to work.
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Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluids and fights infection.
The most common symptom if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes is that they feel hard or swollen. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck area can make it hard to swallow.
Cancer cells can also stop lymph fluid from draining away. This might lead to swelling in the neck or face due to fluid buildup in that area. The swelling is called lymphoedema.
What To Look For
Any new spots that appear on the skin could potentially be skin cancer, considering that one in five people will develop at least one skin cancer in their lifetime. Definitively distinguishing the different types of skin cancer requires a biopsy and microscopic evaluation, but the general appearance of these tumors also differs to some degree.
- Basal cell carcinomas are often shiny and have been described as pearlescent. They may be flat, raised, or dome-shaped, and are often pink, pale, or flesh-colored. On careful inspection, tiny blood vessels may be visible when compared with the surrounding skin. Basal cell cancer characteristically is very often ulcerated and has been called a rodent ulcer because it looks like a mouse has gnawed it.
This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.
- Squamous cell carcinomas are often raised and feel crusty to touch. They can appear scaly and may be ulceratedthat is, have a central depression that is lighter and flatter than the surrounding area. These cancers sometimes bleed, ooze, or form scabs.
This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.
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Does Sunlight Cause Skin Cancer
There is evidence that sunlight causes skin cancer. Skin cancer can be treated and cured without serious consequences. However, in some cases the condition can be life-threatening if not diagnosed in time.
Skin cancer is an occupational concern for people who work under the sun. The risk however, may be reduced through awareness of the problem, and by taking measures to prevent exposure to sunlight.
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Diagnosis Of Skin Cancer
It is important to check your skin regularly and check with your doctor if you notice any changes.
In the majority of cases, your GP will examine you, paying attention to any spots that may look suspicious. Your GP may perform a biopsy . In some cases your GP may refer you to a specialist, such as a dermatologist, if necessary.
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The Stage Of Melanoma Depends On The Thickness Of The Tumor Whether Cancer Has Spread To Lymph Nodes Or Other Parts Of The Body And Other Factors
To find out the stage of melanoma, the tumor is completely removed and nearby lymph nodes are checked for signs of cancer. The stage of the cancer is used to determine which treatment is best. Check with your doctor to find out which stage of cancer you have.
The stage of melanoma depends on the following:
- The thickness of the tumor. The thickness of the tumor is measured from the surface of the skin to the deepest part of the tumor.
- Whether there are:
- Satellite tumors: Small groups of tumor cells that have spread within 2 centimeters of the primary tumor.
- Microsatellite tumors: Small groups of tumor cells that have spread to an area right beside or below the primary tumor.
- In-transit metastases: Tumors that have spread to lymph vessels in the skin more than 2 centimeters away from the primary tumor, but not to the lymph nodes.
How Can I Prevent Melanoma
To learn more about melanoma and the clinical trials visit the following websites:
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