Sometimes melanoma can come back in the same area after treatment (recurrent melanoma). This can be months or years later. This can happen if cancer cells are left behind after treatment. The cells are too small to be seen with the naked eye or on scans. Over time, these cancer cells can begin to grow again.
Sometimes, melanomas come back as ‘clusters’ of melanomas. The clusters are near where the original melanoma (primary) first started. Doctors sometimes call these satellites or in-transit metastases.
After your initial treatment, your specialist will see you regularly. They will check your skin for signs and symptoms of melanoma to see if it has come back (a recurrence). They may also check the rest of your skin to see if you have any other changes.
Tell your specialist if you have any symptoms of recurrent melanoma. For example, this might be a small lump under the scar. Your doctor or specialist nurse can tell you what to look for.
Your specialist will take a sample of cells (biopsy) from the abnormal area. A doctor, called a pathologist, looks at the sample under a microscope and checks for any cancer cells.
If the melanoma has come back, your specialist will remove it with an operation called a wide local excision.
You may have further tests to check if the melanoma has spread to another part of the body. These tests may include:
Tests to check your lymph nodes
A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
Your doctor or cancer specialist or nurse will explain the different treatments and their side effects. They will also talk to you about things to consider when making treatment decisions.
You may have one or more of the following treatments:
You may have some treatments as part of a clinical trial.
After the melanoma has been removed, you will have regular check-ups. How often you see your cancer team will depend on the stage of your melanoma and type of treatment.
We have more information on follow-up care after treatment for melanoma and staying safe in the sun.
You may get anxious between appointments. This is natural. It may help to get support from family, friends or a support organisation.
Macmillan is also here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can: