What to Expect
If you have been diagnosed with melanoma and referred to the SCCA Melanoma Clinic, your first stop will most likely be at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance outpatient building on south Lake Union. Your team of melanoma specialists will review your information, do any additional tests, and discuss your diagnosis and treatment options with you.
If you have not been diagnosed with skin cancer, but are concerned about your moles, you may want to make an appointment at the Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery Center at UW Medical Center for an evaluation of your pigmented lesion, especially if you are at risk for melanoma.
Pigmented lesions include a variety of skin abnormalities, the most common being moles. Early diagnosis of melanoma is possible with dermoscopy and biopsy. People at high risk for melanoma can also benefit from the clinic’s professional, confidential grid photography service, which allows doctors to assess changes in moles over time. People who are diagnosed with melanoma at the clinic are then referred on for dermatologic surgery or to medical or surgical oncology at SCCA.
Your cancer care team at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance offers comprehensive follow-up care once you complete your treatment. Our patients say that they find it reassuring to see the same specialists who treated them, all experts in skin cancer, for their follow-up visits.
If you were treated here at SCCA but do not live in the Seattle area, you may choose to receive your follow-up care with your local doctor. In that case, we usually ask patients to keep us up-to-date on their health status by phone or mail and have their test results sent to SCCA.
Once treatment is over, here are some suggestions for staying healthy:
- Keep up your self-checks
Continue (or start) doing a monthly head-to-toe body check. Go to Screening and Detection for instructions on doing a self check.
- Stay in touch
Any new or ongoing symptoms, or any worrisome growths, bumps or spots should be reported to your medical oncologist or nurse practitioner right away. Use the guidelines in the Signs and Symptoms section to help you identify any trouble spots.
- Protect yourself
Protection from sun exposure should remain a top priority. See the Prevention section for information on how to do this successfully.
- Show up
Keep all of your follow-up appointments. These will allow your doctor to catch any new skin cancers early, and can also give you peace of mind.
- The skin cancer follow-up schedule
Your follow-up visits are very important. Your doctor will tailor your follow-up schedule to your individual needs, but here is a typical schedule:
Melanoma can recur after it has been treated. It may return to the original site or turn up in other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.
- Basal cell cancer
Patients with basal cell cancer are likely to have a new or recurrent tumor within five years of the first one, so you will be seen for a thorough exam every six months for five years, and once a year after that.
- Squamous cell cancer
This kind of cancer can spread more easily than basal cell. For this reason, you will have a skin exam every three months for several years after treatment and then every six months after that.
As part of the Survivorship Program at SCCA, a clinic has been developed for general medical oncology survivors treated with conventional therapy. This clinic is the Medical Oncology Survivorship Team (MOST). For more information about the MOST program, click here.
Worrying about those visits?
Many people find that they experience a lot of fear and anxiety around the time they have a follow-up appointment. The question often lingers in the back of every cancer patient's mind: What if my cancer has come back? This is a common worry, and the staff at SCCA can help you cope with these strong emotions and refer you to other resources that can also help.