Melanoma – Information for the Newly Diagnosed

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,567
    Tim Turnham, Ph.D., of the Melanoma Research Foundation gives advice for recently diagnosed patients on dealing with melanoma.

    Tim Turnham: Hi! I am Tim Turnham. I am with the Melanoma Research Foundation. Today I am talking about Melanoma and now I want to focus on the changes you need to implement after being diagnosed.

    If you were diagnosed with Melanoma, you will be faced with a number of key decisions, and the decisions you make early in your treatment can make a big difference later on. So it is important to learn about your diagnosis and your treatment options. Be sure you know your stage. The stage of your disease makes a big difference in what kind of treatment you need if any.

    A lot of factors go into staging, but in general, stage one, means that the Melanoma is limited to the outer surface of the skin. Stage two means that the cancer has moved deeper into the skin. Stage three means that tumor cells have been found in one or more lymph nodes, and stage four means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

    Dr. Lynn Schuchter: So for patients who have early stage Melanoma, stage one or stage two, they do not require generally any treatment. We monitor those patients, but they don't require any active treatment. For patients who have stage three Melanoma, are Melanoma that involves lymph nodes. These patients are at higher risk that the Melanoma could come back at a distant site. And so we offer those patients treatment, and that maybe Interferon, that is the only FDA approved treatment for stage three Melanoma, but that therapy does have a fair bit of side effects. For the management of patients with stage four Melanoma, there are three broad categories of treatment. One is Chemotherapy, the second is Immunotherapy, where we rev up the immune system with the treatment, and the third approach is with this new concept called Targeted Therapy and that approach is where we understand the genes that are broken in a patient's Melanoma, and apply personalized targeted therapy to fix the gene that maybe broken.

    Kevin Stenstrom: My oncologist told me once a Melanoma patient, always a Melanoma patient, whether it's stage one or stage three, where I am at, and I think that's important for everyone to realize. If you are diagnosed with Melanoma, even stage one, is something to take very seriously, and make sure that you get proper care and that you are very involved and active with your care.

    Tim Turnham: If you were diagnosed with an advanced stage of Melanoma, consider consulting a doctor or a group of doctors who treat a lot of Melanoma patients. The field is changing quickly and these doctors are the most likely to have the latest and best information even if this means traveling. You will feel more confident knowing you are being treated by doctors who are smart on the latest advances. How can you find a doctor with this experience? You need to do your homework. Look for a doctor who is associated with the comprehensive cancer center or at least with an institution that has an active Melanoma program. For advanced Melanoma, consider a clinical trial. Many good trials are ongoing in Melanoma and are showing stronger results than the approved therapies that currently exist. For more information on patient communities where you can ask about doctors and treatment centers and clinical trials, go to Melanoma.

    org. While not every patient is right for a clinical trial, it maybe a signal that your doctor is not aware of the latest advances if he or she does not discuss clinical trials for you. If you want to learn more, check out our other videos about Melanoma, including information on the importance of a support community.