What happens after treatment?

After treatment for recurrent melanoma, you will have regular follow-up appointments with your specialist. They will examine your skin and lymph nodes to check that no new melanomas have appeared, and that the cancer hasn’t spread.

You will also have to check your skin at least once a month. The ABCDE checklist can help you to know what to look and feel for. Let your hospital team know if you are unsure of anything, or if you notice anything different.

After melanoma, it is very important to protect your skin from the sun. You can still enjoy the sun and go on sunny holidays, but you need to make sure that your skin does not burn. Staying out of strong sunlight, covering up with clothing, hats and sunglasses, and using high-factor sunscreen can all help. You should not use sunbeds and sunlamps.

Many people find it quite easy to get back to normal after melanoma. For others, it can be more complicated. With time, people can adjust to the changes they need to make to their lives.

Follow-up care

After treatment for recurrent melanoma, you will have regular follow-up appointments. Your specialist will let you know how often these will be.

During these appointments, your specialist will examine any areas that have been treated for melanoma. They will also examine any existing or new moles, and your lymph nodes.

Sometimes, a melanoma that has previously come back in the same area can spread to other parts of the body. This is known as a secondary cancer (metastasis). If a melanoma does spread to other parts of the body, further treatment can be given. You can read more about this in the advanced melanoma section.


What to look out for

You will need to continue checking your skin and lymph nodes after treatment. Follow your specialist’s advice about what to look and feel for. Make sure you examine yourself at least once a month.

The ABCDE checklist can help you remember what to look for:

  • A – asymmetry – most melanomas have an irregular shape and are not symmetrical.
  • B – border – melanomas are more likely to have a blurred or irregular border with jagged edges.
  • C – colour – melanomas tend to have more than one colour, such as brown, black, red and white.
  • D – diameter (width) – melanomas are usually wider than 6mm.
  • E – evolving (changing) – melanomas will change over time, for example in size or colour.

If you notice anything that concerns you, let your specialist team at the hospital know.


After melanoma

Many people with melanoma find they can get back to normal quite easily. For others, it may be more complicated. In time, and with the right support, people often find they can adjust to any changes they need to make to their lives.


Skin care in the sun

After treatment for melanoma, it is important to protect your skin from the sun. This does not mean that you can no longer enjoy sunshine or have holidays in sunny countries. But you will need to be careful. You must make sure your skin does not burn. Over time, this will become part of your normal routine.

There are a number of things you can do to protect your skin:

  • Stay out of the sun or strong sunlight during the hottest part of the day. This is usually between 11am and 3pm.
  • Wear clothing made of cotton or natural fibres, which have a close weave. These will give you more protection against the sun.
  • Keep your arms and legs covered by wearing long-sleeved tops and trousers. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, neck and ears.
  • Always wear sunglasses in strong sunlight.
  • Use a high-factor suncream (SPF 30 or above) whenever you are exposed to the sun for a period of time. Follow the instructions on the bottle and re-apply it as recommended. In the autumn, winter and early spring in the UK, there is no need to use above SPF 20 if you only have limited exposure to the sun.
  • Choose a suncream that protects against UVA and UVB radiation. This is known as broad spectrum suncream.
  • Don’t use suncream instead of other methods of protecting your skin. Some people think that if they use suncream, they can stay out in the sun for longer. But the best protection is to cover up and to stay out of strong sunlight.
  • Never use a sunbed or sunlamp. If it is important for you to look tanned, use fake tan lotions or sprays.
  • If you have a skin condition and use a sunbed as part of your treatment, your dermatologist may advise you to stop using the sunbed.

If you aren’t often exposed to the sun, you may want to ask your specialist or GP to check your vitamin D levels. This vitamin is important for general health and can get very low in people who avoid the sun. You may need to take vitamin D supplements.

Back to Treating

Making treatment decisions

Your doctors may tell you there are different options for your treatment. Having the right information will help you make the right decision for you.

Surgery

Surgery is the main treatment for a recurrent melanoma.

Chemotherapy into a limb

Chemotherapy can be given directly into a limb to help control melanoma that has come back in one area.

Other treatments

Other treatments can be used to treat recurrent melanoma or help control symptoms.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays, usually x-rays and similar rays (such as electrons) to treat cancer.

Clinical trials

Many people are offered a trial as part of treatment. Find out more to help you decide if a trial is right for you.

Life after cancer treatment

You might be thinking about how to get back to normal following treatment. Find advice, information and support about coping with and after cancer.