After completing skin cancer treatment, it’s natural to feel relieved you’ve finished treatment but worried the cancer will come back. At Sylvester, we understand. That’s why we offer personal attention and ongoing support to keep you healthy, called survivorship care. Your skin cancer follow-up care lets us manage your health, provide relief for any side effects, and make sure cancer hasn’t returned.
What can I expect as a skin cancer survivor?
Your survivorship care visits are essential whether you’re a survivor of melanoma, basal cell cancer, or squamous cell cancer. Your appointments let us keep a close eye on your health and make sure you’re feeling your best. During your visits, we do a physical exam and any necessary testing, such as imaging or blood tests. We look for any signs of cancer recurrence or treatment side effects, which can develop long after treatment is finished. These visits are also a good time for you to ask questions and tell us about any changes in your health.
We personalize your follow-up care by creating a survivorship care plan based on input from your cancer care team. This document gives you and your healthcare providers an overview of your cancer treatments and guidance for follow-up visits and testing. You also get expert advice for healthy living, including tips on nutrition and exercise. We make sure you know about all our cancer support services and education and local and national skin cancer support organizations.
Skin cancer follow-up visits
How often you see us for follow-up visits depends on the type and stage of cancer you had.
Basal cell and squamous cell cancer survivor care
In many instances, treatment for basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer removes the cancer entirely. But more advanced skin cancers may never go away completely, which requires ongoing treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other approaches to keep the cancer from spreading.
Whether treatment removed your cancer or you need ongoing therapies, it’s essential to go to your follow-up visits:
- Basal cell cancer survivors. Your doctor may recommend follow-up appointments every six months to a year.
- Squamous cell cancer survivors. Expect to see your care team every three to six months for the first few years and less frequently after that.
Melanoma survivor care
Melanoma survivors have a high risk of getting another cancer, and there’s also a risk of melanoma returning. That’s why it’s so important to keep your follow-up appointments:
- Early-stage melanoma survivors. If the melanoma was removed entirely, your doctor may recommend exams every six months or yearly for several years and less frequently if you show no signs of cancer. You may have appointments more regularly if you have a lot of moles or any precancerous growths.
- Survivors of thicker melanomas or melanomas that spread. Typically, you’ll have follow-up visits every three to six months for several years and less frequently after that. If your cancer was more advanced, you could expect imaging tests like CT scans or ultrasounds.
Side effects of skin cancer surgery
Whether you had Mohs surgery or another surgery to remove lymph nodes or cancer that’s spread to another area of your body, you may experience side effects such as:
- Bleeding or bruising
- Nerve damage or numbness
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Swelling (lymphedema)
Some side effects like bleeding, bruising, pain, and swelling are temporary. Mohs cancer surgery scars usually fade within several months, but it depends on the size and location of the scar. Still, you may decide to have a procedure to minimize the scar or get reconstructive surgery if you had more aggressive skin cancer surgery.
If your skin cancer treatment also included radiation therapy or chemotherapy, Sylvester offers comprehensive care to help you manage any side effects. From acupuncture to rehabilitation services, you get personal attention to help you feel your best.
Cosmetic procedure options after skin cancer treatment
You have many different options to restore your appearance after skin cancer surgery. Whether you need reconstructive or plastic surgery or a minor cosmetic procedure, you get care from our team of skilled, experienced surgeons and skincare specialists.
We offer various approaches to minimize surgical scars and let you feel confident about your appearance – including dermabrasion and laser treatments to make scarring less noticeable and improve the look of your skin.
You don’t have to live with scars or disfigurement after surgery. We explain all your options so that you can decide what’s right for you.
What are the symptoms of skin cancer recurrence?
Skin cancer survivors are at a higher risk of developing another skin cancer. You should limit your sun exposure and always wear sunscreen. That's why it's essential to check your skin for changes regularly.
Do your skin self-exam monthly in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lighted room. You can use a handheld mirror – or ask your partner – to look at difficult-to-see areas, including your back and scalp.
Skin cancers can appear in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Many types of skin cancer are more common on areas that get a lot of sun, but they can develop anywhere – including the bottom of your feet, between your toes, and under your fingernails.
These are some of the most common signs of skin cancer:
- New, expanding, or changing moles, spots, bumps, or other growths on the skin
- Sores that bleed or don’t heal after several weeks
- Rough or scaly red patches that may crust or bleed
- Moles that are multicolored (such as black and red) or have an odd shape or irregular borders
If you notice anything new or something that’s changed – such as a mole – let your care team know. It may not be cancer, and having it looked at can ease your worries. If it turns out to be skin cancer, you can begin treatment right away.
Can I prevent skin cancer from coming back?
Although there are no surefire ways to prevent skin cancer from returning, you can make healthy choices to enhance your overall health. Adopt healthy habits like eating a nutritious diet, exercising, managing your weight, and limiting your exposure to UV rays. If you smoke, you should quit – smoking raises your risk of squamous cell cancer and other types of cancer.
Need help getting started? We offer comprehensive guidance and support to improve your health and well-being.
How can I learn more about long-term follow-up care for skin cancer survivors?
Follow-up care is essential to keeping you healthy and ensuring you have the highest quality of life possible. To learn more about our survivorship care program and personalized services for skin cancer survivors, email us at SCCCSURVIVORSHIP@miami.edu.