Follow-up after treatment

After your treatment, you will see your cancer doctor or specialist nurse for a follow-up appointments. They will explain how many follow-up appointments you need. This depends on the stage of the melanoma.

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will examine your scar and the surrounding area. They will check your lymph nodes closest to where the melanoma was. If these were removed, they may also check lymph nodes elsewhere in your body.

They will also check the rest of your skin for any signs of new melanomas. They may take photographs of your skin and measure some of your moles. This is a way of checking for any changes.

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will also show you how to check your skin and what to look for. This will help you notice any signs of the melanoma coming back, or a new melanoma developing. It is important to check regularly so that the melanoma can be found as early as possible.

After you have a melanoma, you have a higher risk of getting another melanoma. So you will also be given advice on protecting your skin from the sun. 

Checking your skin

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 that if it is found early. If you have symptoms, contact your cancer doctor or specialist nurse. Remember, you can contact them between your follow-up appointments.

Your cancer doctor and specialist nurse will ask you to check:

  • your scar and the surrounding area
  • your skin, on all of your body, for any new or changing moles.

The ABCDE checklist helps you to know what to look for.

They may also ask you to check other lymph nodes after your treatment. The British Association of Dermatologists produce a leaflet with advice about how to check your lymph nodes.

Skincare in the sun

After treatment for melanoma, it is important to protect your skin from the sun. This does not mean that you cannot 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 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 the sun.
  • Use a high-factor sun cream (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.
  • Choose a sun cream that protects against UVA (at least 4 stars) and UVB (at least SPF 30) radiation.
  • Make sure you use enough sun cream. About 6 to 8 teaspoons is enough to cover most adults.
  • Do not use sun cream instead of covering up or staying in the shade. You might think that if you use sun cream, you can stay in the sun for longer. But the best protection is to cover up and to stay out of sunlight.
  • Never use a sunbed or sunlamp. If you prefer to look tanned, use fake tan.
  • 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 are not often in the sun, ask your cancer doctor or GP to check your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is important for general health and can become low in people who avoid the sun. You may need to take vitamin D supplements.

Lymphoedema

 Lymphoedema is a chronic swelling, usually of an arm or leg. It sometimes happens after you have had surgery or radiotherapy to lymph nodes. Lymphoedema can develop weeks, months, or even years after treatment. There is no way to predict who will or will not get lymphoedema.

We have more information about lymphoedema, including how to reduce your risk and treating lymphoedema.

Pregnancy

If you are thinking of getting pregnant, or making someone pregnant, after having melanoma, talk to your cancer doctor first. In some situations, they may advise you to wait. This is because melanoma is more likely to come back in the first two years after diagnosis.

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