A diagnosis of melanoma affects everyone differently
You or your loved one will likely face physical and emotional challenges and encounter a wide range of feelings including fear, shock and isolation. There are several coping mechanisms and strategies that can help you increase your quality of life both during and after treatment.
Stress from a melanoma diagnosis can be felt physically, mentally and emotionally. At times, this stress can feel unmanageable. You may feel as though you have lost interest in things that you used to enjoy. It is important that all signs of stress, depression and anxiety be discussed with your doctor.
Signs of Depression and Anxiety:
- Sad or “empty” feeling much of the day
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Trouble sleeping
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Sudden increase or decrease in body weight
- Difficulty concentrating
- Chronic fatigue or restlessness
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or increased heart rate
- Chest or abdominal pain
Stress Management Techniques
Stress management techniques are a very important component in living with melanoma and can help you feel empowered and improve your quality of life. There are many stress management techniques you can try. Remember — not every technique works the same for everyone, but here are few ideas to get you started.
- Participate in our patient forum
- Join a cancer support group
- Talk with a therapist or counselor
- Listen to music
- Practice yoga
- Try to manage just one problem at a time
- Keep a journal
- Accept support and help from others
- Try aromatherapy
- Call a friend
- Get a massage
- Play with a pet
- Read a book
- Watch a comedy
Caregivers may also experience high levels of stress. Please use our Caregiver Support Guide to learn ways to take care of yourself while taking care of your loved one.
Nutrition and Physical Activity
Eating well and maintaining proper nutrition plays an important role in developing a lifelong melanoma survivorship plan. It is important to eat a variety of foods every day. Be aware of portion sizes and understand the amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats your body needs. Watch our Nutrition and Melanoma Webinar hosted by Ms. Kim Jordan, MHA, RDN, CNSD.
Some melanoma patients experience decreased appetite, nausea, pain, discomfort or changes in taste during and after treatment. Eating small meals or snacks throughout the day, varying your diet and making meals into social events may help improve your appetite and make eating more enjoyable.
Regardless of how fit you were before your melanoma diagnosis, your physical conditioning may decrease as a result of your treatment. Improving your physical fitness after treatments can provide many benefits to your overall health and well-being.
Exercise can improve your health in the following ways:
- Increased energy
- Reduced fatigue
- Improved sleep
- Stress relief
- Increased self esteem
- Improved sexual functioning
- Decreased risk of osteoporosis
- Improved blood flow
- Reduced risk of blood clots and heart disease
You don’t need to overdo it. The overall goal is to simply try your best to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Even participating in low-impact activities such as yoga, Tai Chi and walking can help. Exercising for three to four days per week for 20-30 minutes is enough to notice cardiovascular and muscular strength improvements. As always, you should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.
In some circumstances, unfortunately, melanoma can recur. Following a melanoma diagnosis, a person remains at risk for developing a new melanoma as well as a recurrence of their previous melanoma. Melanoma is considered to be the most serious type of skin cancer because it can recur locally or to a distant site (metastatic melanoma).
Melanoma that recurs locally may appear at the scar of the initial surgery or as small nodules or lumps under the skin at the site. During your monthly self skin exams, you should look for any abnormal lumps near where the surgery was performed, as well as by nearby lymph nodes. Melanoma that recurs in a distant site is most often detected by regularly scheduled x-rays or scans.