Making decisions about treatment
Who might be on your treatment team
From the time that you are diagnosed with melanoma, you may be cared for by one or more of a team of health professionals, including:
• your GP who will often be the first person you see
• dermatologists, who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders
• surgeons who remove affected tissue. You may see a plastic surgeon for surgery including skin grafting and reconstructive surgery
• cancer nurse co-coordinators specialists/clinical nurse specialists have advanced skills in cancer care and act as a point of contact across different parts of the health service. They support and guide people with cancer and their families/whānau to keep them fully informed about their care
• an outpatient nurses, who work alongside doctors during their clinics.
Talking with your treatment team
Before you see your treatment team it may help to write down your questions. You may want to take a family/whānau member or friend with you to take notes or to listen. Having your questions answered can help you feel more in control of your situation. Let your doctor know if there are things you do not want to be told.
Getting a second opinion
You may want to ask another doctor about your cancer or treatment.
You can ask your cancer doctor or GP to refer you to another doctor.
You are entitled to a second opinion if you want one.
“ Trust your instincts, if you don’t feel the advice is right go for a second opinion.” Karen
Some questions you might want to ask your cancer treatment team
You might like to ask about:
• the treatment they advise for your melanoma and why
• who might be performing your surgery and where
• what other treatment options you might have
• what the treatment might cost
• what further treatment you might need, what it will be like, and when it will begin
• if your treatment will be performed by a doctor who specialises in melanoma
• where you can get a second opinion
• if your cancer is hereditary (passed on by your parents)
• what your prognosis (outlook) might be
• if treatment will affect your ability to work.
Taking part in a clinical trial
There are many new and emerging treatments for advanced melanoma. There may be clinical trials available that you could join. Sometimes these trials give you access to better medications than would be available outside a study. At other times, trials test drugs that have not been used in many people before and it may be unclear how effective the treatments are or what side effects they might have. You should discuss this with your specialist.
Clinical trials are a vital part of the search to find better treatments for cancer, to test new and modified treatments, and to see if they are better than existing treatments. In randomised clinical trials you will either receive the standard treatment currently available or the new treatment being tested. Many people all over the world have taken part in clinical trials that
have improved cancer treatments, but not all drugs tested in trials turn out to be helpful. The decision to take part in a clinical trial is yours. If you are asked to take part in a clinical trial, make sure that you fully understand the reasons for the trial and what it means for your treatment.