Follow-up care after mole removal

After your melanoma has been treated, you will see your skin cancer specialist again for follow-up appointments. How often and for how long you have these appointments will depend on the stage of your melanoma.

During the appointments, your doctor or nurse will check your scar and the area around it. They will also check your lymph nodes and the rest of your skin for signs of new melanomas. They may photograph your skin or measure some moles. This is a way of checking for any changes that may develop.

You will be shown how to check your skin yourself. If another melanoma develops, the sooner it is found, the more chance there is of curing it.

After melanoma, it is very important to protect yourself from the sun. You can still go out in the sunshine but you need to be careful your skin does not burn. Protect yourself with clothing, hats and suncream.

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant or fathering a child after having melanoma, talk to your specialist first.

After treatment for melanoma

After the melanoma has been removed, you will see your skin cancer specialist again for a follow-up appointment.

During this appointment, your doctor or specialist nurse will examine your scar and the surrounding area. They’ll also check your lymph nodes. Which lymph nodes they check will depend on where the melanoma was:

  • Leg – The lymph nodes behind your knees and in your groin will be checked.
  • Chest, back or abdomen – The lymph nodes in your groin, armpits, above the collarbones and in the neck will be checked.
  • Arm – The lymph nodes around the elbow, above your collarbones and in the lower neck will be checked.
  • Head or neck area – The lymph nodes in the side of your neck, under the chin, above the collarbones, behind your ears and at the back of your neck will be checked.

Your specialist will also check the rest of your skin for any signs of new melanomas. Some people may have photographs taken of their skin, and some of their moles measured. This is just a way of checking for any changes that may develop.

How often and for how long you’ll have follow-up appointments will depend on the stage of your melanoma. Your specialist will discuss this with you.

You’ll be shown how to examine your skin and what to look out for. This will help you spot any signs of the original melanoma coming back, or another melanoma developing, as early as possible.

After you’ve had a melanoma, you’re at more risk of developing another primary melanoma. So you’ll also be given advice on protecting your skin from the sun (see below).

Surviving cancer makes you evaluate what’s important in life. If you notice a freckle or mole, or if a new one suddenly appears, get it checked out straight away. And stay safe in the sun – a tan really isn’t worth it.

Courtney


What to look out for after surgery

It is important to check yourself for any signs of melanoma at least once a month. If another melanoma develops, there is more chance of curing it the earlier it is found. If you have any symptoms that you are worried about, you can contact your hospital doctor or specialist nurse between your follow-up appointments.

You will be asked to check:

  • your scar and the surrounding area
  • the lymph nodes nearby
  • your skin, from head to toe, for any new or changing moles – use the ABCDE checklist.

The British Association of Dermatologists produce a leaflet with advice about how to check your lymph nodes. You can download a copy from their website – visit bad.org.uk.


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.

I use hats and long-sleeved tops, and I cover myself with suncream now. I don’t want to take any chances, because I don’t want to repeat my mistakes.

Ron


Pregnancy

Having a family can be an important part of moving on with life after cancer. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant or fathering a child after having 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. This is because this is the most likely time for melanoma to come back.

For women who do become pregnant, there is no evidence that this will make a melanoma more likely to come back.

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