Fortunately, there are now more therapies available to treat metastatic melanoma than ever before.
Recent advances in treatments mean some people are living longer and better. Still, there is a lot to consider when weighing your options. Here are some things you may want to think about.
Important Considerations for Metastatic Melanoma Patients
Know All of Your Options
If possible, consider going to someone who specializes in melanoma to:
- Learn about the latest treatments
- Find out if there are clinical trials that might be beneficial (Sometimes a clinical trial may be your best bet – even as a first treatment. In some cases, taking other medications may make it harder for you to be accepted into a clinical trial . So take the time to find out about all of your options before starting any treatment.)
- Consider a second opinion before starting any treatment.
“It is usually more important to have a carefully thought out care plan than to start a treatment quickly.” –Dr. Gangadhar
Take Note Tip: Try to find an oncologist who specializes in melanoma. Because metastatic melanoma is a rare disease, many oncologists don’t see it, especially at later stages of the disease. Find out if a second opinion is recommended.
Understand and Weigh In on Treatment Goals
The main goal of therapy is to help you live as well as you can
and for as long as possible
(to prolong survival).
Your treatment plan should also help to:
- Manage symptoms
- Minimize side effects
- Maintain your function and quality of life
Several factors can play a role in treatment decisions and what your doctor might recommend. For example:
- Where and how far your cancer has spread
- Your symptoms and overall health
- Treatments you have already tried
- Impact on quality of life and practical costs
- Your preferences and personal goals!
Take Note Tip: The care you receive should center around your needs and preferences. Speak up, if needed, and tell your doctor about your goals for treatment too
Remember That It's More Than Physical
Living with metastatic melanoma can be scary. There may be times when you feel very uncertain about the future. Your cancer treatment shouldn’t only be about how you feel physically. It should also address how you are coping and feeling emotionally and spiritually too.
Although you may feel zapped of energy, it’s so important to take an active role in your care. Most people who do will tell you they feel more at ease and in control during what can be a very overwhelming period in their lives.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Think about and write down your goals for treatment (what do you want from your treatment?)
- Make a list of possible treatments and the pros and cons of each one
- Get a notebook or binder to keep copies of medical reports, track symptoms and side effects and medication you take and to write down questions and concerns
- Keep a comfort journal and include words of inspiration from other people living with the disease
- Work with your health care team to anticipate the next step if one treatment doesn’t work
- Appoint someone to make health decisions for you if you are unable to do so (called a health care proxy). It’s also nice to bring a trusted friend or family member with you to appointments, especially when you expect to get test results. This person can ask questions, take notes and, if you prefer, can also be your messenger and provide health updates to other people so that you can focus on your care rather than recounting the story.
- Have a living will in place (this is a good idea regardless of your health)
- Consider talking to an Open to Options® Specialist at the Cancer Support Community who can help you get a clearer idea of your goals and concerns.
Take Note Tip: Remember that your health care team is on your side. They are there to answer any questions and allay any concerns you have now and in the future. If you need help sorting through your feelings and what questions to ask your health care providers, consider using CSC’s Open to Options® program.
For more information and resources on metastatic melanoma, click here.