Planning your treatment for advanced melanoma
In most hospitals, a team of specialists will talk to you about the treatment they feel is best for your situation.
They are known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT), and normally include:
a dermatologist - a doctor specialising in the treatment of skin disorders and skin cancer
a plastic surgeon - a doctor specialising in reconstructive surgery
a medical oncologist - a chemotherapy specialist
a clinical oncologist - a radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist
a skin cancer specialist nurse - who gives information and support and co-ordinates your treatment.
It may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a palliative care specialist, research nurse, dietitian, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, psychologist or counsellor.
The MDT will take a number of factors into account when advising you on the best treatment. These include your age, general health and the area to which the melanoma has spread. It may help to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of each option with your cancer specialist or nurse specialist.
The benefits and disadvantages of treatment
Treatment for advanced melanoma aims to control the cancer and relieve symptoms. Some people may find it more difficult to decide whether to go ahead with treatment when the aim is to control the cancer rather than to cure it. They may worry about having treatment because of the possible side effects. Although the treatments can cause side effects, these can usually be controlled with medicines.
However, for some people with advanced melanoma, treatment will have very little effect on the cancer and they will get the side effects without much benefit. If you’re having treatment, you’ll be monitored closely for signs that it’s working. This is so that treatment can be stopped if it isn’t helping you and is only causing side effects.
Making decisions about treatment in these circumstances is always difficult, and you may need to discuss things in detail with your doctor and your family. Even if you decide not to have treatment, a lot can be done to help improve your symptoms. You’ll probably be referred to a team of doctors and nurses who specialise in controlling symptoms and providing emotional support. These are known as palliative care teams.
For more on planning your treatment, you may find it helpful to read our information on:
giving your permission (consent) for treatment to begin
making decisions about cancer treatment
seeking a second opinion.