If you’ve been diagnosed with melanoma, your mind is probably overloaded with questions and worries, but there are resources available to help patients work through the shock.
With melanoma, no question is unimportant
Any medical diagnosis can be difficult to come to terms with, and melanoma is an especially tough diagnosis to receive. Because melanoma is so complex, it can be difficult to realize what you do and don’t know or understand. Becoming educated and informed will help you understand your diagnosis and make decisions about your melanoma treatment.
Ask your doctor questions until you’re satisfied and fully understand the answers your doctor has given you. Take notes, and if you need clarification, follow up with more questions.
The first thing to do is to identify and gather a support system around you. Your support system is people who can offer emotional, physical, and other support, now or in the future; people you trust and love can help in all sorts of ways.
The more knowledge you have, the more you will understand your diagnosis, potential treatment options, and goals of your care. Knowledge is empowering. This is important because cancer can make people feel powerless.
Understanding all the details
First, get a copy of your pathology report. Review the Melanoma Foundation website sections called About Pathology Reports and Understanding Your Pathology Report to help you make sense of the terminology found in the report. If you still have questions, contact the melanoma physician assistant.
Understanding your pathology report will give you a better understanding of your exact diagnosis and stage of melanoma. Knowing the specifics of your diagnosis will help you find more useful information and make treatment decisions.
Brush off your note-taking skills
Keep a notebook, write down all your questions, and bring it to your doctor’s appointments so you can ask all of those questions. Feeling organized and informed will help you as you work together with your doctor to make decisions.
Consider bringing a family member or friend with you to medical appointments to listen and take notes. Sometimes it’s hard to listen and take notes at the same time; let someone help.
Get familiar with the medicine
Become informed about your treatment options and goals of care, and ask about the risks and benefits of any recommended treatment.
Ask your doctor how much time you have to make a decision and begin treatment, if there might be a clinical trial that is right for you, and take time to understand your insurance coverage. Your healthcare provider can help you determine what your policy includes.
You should also get a second opinion from a melanoma specialist. Use the Melanoma Foundation’s “Find a Melanoma Specialist” tool to find a doctor near you.
Don’t go it alone. Maintain spiritual and emotional support from friends, family and loved ones.
The foremost thing to remember is to always have hope. We are doing a better job than ever before of treating cancer in the United States. Melanoma research is constantly evolving and there are many new treatment options for melanoma patients.