Life after treatment
Most people with a melanoma will be cured, and getting back to normal after surgery is usually straightforward.
After any treatment for melanoma, it’s important to make sure you protect your skin from the sun. This reduces the chance of developing another melanoma. Protecting yourself from the sun doesn’t mean that you can no longer enjoy sunshine or have holidays in sunny countries. But you’ll need to take sensible precautions that will, in time, become part of your normal routine. There are a number of things you can do to protect your skin and ensure it doesn’t burn:
Stay out of the sun or strong sunlight during the hottest part of the day – usually between 11am and 3pm.
Wear clothing made of cotton or natural fibres that has a close weave and gives more protection against the sun.
Keep your legs and arms covered by wearing long sleeves and trousers. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, neck and ears.
Always wear sunglasses in strong sunlight.
Use a high-factor sunscreen (SPF 30 or above) whenever you’re exposed to the sun. Follow the instructions on the bottle and re-apply it as recommended, especially after swimming. Choose one that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation (broad spectrum).
Don’t use sunscreen instead of other methods of protecting your skin. Some people think that if they use sunscreen they can stay out in the sun for longer. But the best protection is to cover up and to stay out of strong sunlight.
Avoid using a sunbed or sunlamp. If it’s important for you to look tanned, use fake tanning lotions or sprays. If you have a skin condition and use a sunbed as part of your treatment, your dermatologist will advise you to stop using the sunbed.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should take vitamin D supplements if you always keep your skin covered.
Having a family can be an important part of moving on with life after cancer. If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant or fathering a child after you’ve been treated for melanoma, talk to your specialist first. In some situations they may advise you to avoid having children for a couple of years after your diagnosis, as this is the most likely time for melanoma to come back. For women who do become pregnant, there‘s no evidence that pregnancy is more likely to make a melanoma come back.
Coping with a change in appearance
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Some people may have had a melanoma on a visible part of the body, such as the face or neck, and its removal may change their appearance. Others may be left with some scarring from the surgery. Changes in appearance can be difficult to come to terms with. Some skin clinics have a makeup specialist who can advise on the best way to cover up scars.
There are also organisations that provide camouflage make-up to cover scars. Coping with a change in how you look can be difficult. It’s important to get support and many people find it helps to talk things through with someone close or a trained counsellor.
You might find our section on coping with body changes helpful.