My husband's issues with melanoma started in about May 09. He is fair skinned with many irregular freckles. We noticed a new freckle on his right shoulder and that it appeared one corner of it was starting to get slightly darker than the rest. As a precaution, he went right away to his PCP. His PCP said not to fool around and sent him right to a surgeon. Surgeon thought it was nothing but did the biopsy anyway: the darkening corner was in situ melanoma. Early June 09, he had the lesion and surrounding area removed. Biopsy of the removed material showed no other signs of abnormality or melanoma. After the surgery and test results, the surgeon said he should be all set, but that he should see a dermatologist every 6 months to keep an eye out for anything new. It was not recommended he see an oncologist because of how early they caught the melanoma and because there was none found in the biopsy. Hubby has gone to see the dermatologist as recommended and followed up with him on a regular basis. To date, no new lesions had been found, nor any issues with original site. My husband has been basically healthy ever since.
About a month and a half ago, my husband thought he had pulled a muscle in his right shoulder lifting some heavy equipment. A week later, he had a sore, tender slightly swollen spot under his arm. Another trip to the PCP, who thought it possibly a hematoma. He was sent to an orthopedist to see if he might need PT. The orthopedic Dr. was unsure if the swollen area was a hematoma or not, so he sent hubby for an ultrasound. From that, we learned that whatever was going on was happening in his lymph nodes. In the meantime, the area continued to swell and cause discomfort. It was NOT hard; it was soft and squishy. Pain and swelling continued, so hubby went back to PCP again on Mar 28th. He sent him to a surgeon for a possible biopsy. The surgeon was the one who thought it was likely cancer, even though the lump was soft and tender instead of hard and painless. Just in case it was some kind of infection, we had his PCP test for infections (including cat scratch) and give him some antibiotics. On the 30th, he had a CT scan for his whole torso. It came back basically clean (a little fatty liver, that's it) except for the masses seen under the right armpit. Meanwhile, cat scratch test came back negative. He had a biopsy done on April 1st. They were to remove the enlarged lymph node and take a sample right there to determine if it was cancer and would remove more if they found it was. The lymph node that had swollen was necrotic (likely why it was painful) and roughly the size of a racquetball and found to be consistent with metastatic melanoma. They removed several other matted lymph nodes as well. We have not gotten the results of the full panel back yet, but the preliminary report said that 11/18 of the nodes tested positive for melanoma. The next day, he had an MRI of his brain and liver with clean results.
His doctors were shocked. His dermatologist made a personal phone call to him when he heard we were requesting records for an oncologist. He showed no signs of any problems when the doc had seen him just a couple months ago...
This past Thursday, he had a PET scan. We have an appointment with a local oncologist tomorrow, where I expect we'll get a staging and the results of this test. My husband and I are feeling pretty overwhelmed and shell-shocked over the news and have hardly had time to wrap our heads around it. Our PCP's office recommended we get a 2nd opinion at Dana Farber (as we are relatively local to them), so we have an appointment with Dr. Ibrahim at DF's Melanoma Center on Friday. I had considered getting an opinion at Mass General's Melanoma center as well because their office is more easily located (for us) in Boston as well as having a satellite office not far from where I work.
Can anyone share, well, anything about anything with us? What kind of questions should we be asking these doctors? What would be good to know? What should we expect for his 1st oncology visits? How soon should we expect his treatment regimen to start? Will he need to take a leave of absence? Has anyone had any experience with Dana Farber or Mass General's Melanoma centers?
I sincerely appreciate any and all feedback anyone can give us newbies.