Melanoma Introduction (cont.)

How is melanoma treated?

The doctor can describe treatment choices and discuss the results expected with each treatment option. The doctor and patient can work together to develop a treatment plan that fits the patient's needs. Treatment for melanoma depends on the extent of the disease, the patient's age and general health, and other factors.

People with melanoma are often treated by a team of specialists. The team may include a dermatologist, surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and plastic surgeon.

Getting a second opinion

Before starting treatment, the patient might want a second opinion about the diagnosis and the treatment plan. Some insurance companies require a second opinion; others may cover a second opinion if the patient or doctor requests it.

There are a number of ways to find a doctor for a second opinion:

  • The patient's doctor may refer the patient to one or more specialists. At cancer centers, several specialists often work together as a team.


  • The Cancer Information Service, at 1-800-4-CANCER, can tell callers about nearby treatment centers.


  • A local or state medical society, a nearby hospital, or a medical school can usually provide the names of specialists.

  • The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has a list of doctors who have met certain education and training requirements and have passed specialty examinations. The Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists lists doctors' names along with their specialty and their educational background. The directory is available in most public libraries. Also, ABMS offers this information on the Internet at http://www.abms.org. (Click on "Who's Certified.")

Preparing for treatment

People with melanoma often want to take an active part in making decisions about their medical care. They want to learn all they can about their disease and their treatment choices. However, shock and stress after a diagnosis of a melanoma can make it hard to think of everything to ask the doctor. It often helps to make a list of questions before an appointment. To help remember what the doctor says, patients may take notes or ask whether they may use a tape recorder. Some also want to have a family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor -- to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.

These are some questions a person may want to ask the doctor before treatment begins:

  • What is my diagnosis?


  • What is the stage of my disease?


  • What are my treatment choices? Which do you recommend for me? Why?


  • What are the benefits of each kind of treatment?


  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment?


  • How will I feel after surgery?


  • If I have pain, how will it be controlled?


  • Will I need more treatment after surgery?


  • Will there be a scar? Will I need a skin graft or plastic surgery?


  • What is the treatment likely to cost?


  • Will treatment affect my normal activities? If so, for how long?


  • How often will I need checkups?


  • Would a clinical trial (research study) be appropriate for me? Can you help me find one?

People do not need to ask all of their questions or understand all of the answers at one time. They will have other chances to ask the doctor to explain things that are not clear and to ask for more information.