After a melanoma diagnosis, feelings of worry, fear, or anxiety can be overwhelming. To find out what can help ease these feelings, researchers talked with thousands of melanoma patients and survivors. Here’s what they said helps bring peace of mind.
- Take care of your emotional needs. Patients often say a cancer diagnosis feels overwhelming because it can affect every area of your life. Getting emotional support can help you cope. Where you can find help:
- Call your local hospital. Ask if psychological services are available for cancer patients and survivors.
- Contact the Cancer Support Community’s Helpline. Counselors are available Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You can reach a counselor by: Phone: 1-888-793-9355 Live chat: Get help now
- Find something positive about your diagnosis. This may seem impossible now, but research suggests it really can help.In one study, patients who found something positive about their melanoma diagnosis were more satisfied with life. Two years after their diagnosis, they were also more likely to be more mentally alert. Those who found something positive kept their language skills, ability to reason, memory, and focus. Those who didn’t find something positive lost ground in these areas. Ideas that can help: If it seems there’s nothing positive about your diagnosis, here are some positive things that melanoma survivors say happened after their diagnosis:
- Gave me a greater appreciation for life
- Made me realize what’s important in life for me
- Let’s me spend more time doing what matters most, such as spending time with family or doing activities that make me happy
- Causes me to care less about everyday annoyances
- Consider massage therapy: Studies suggest that massage can help cancer patients. A study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center found that patients who received massage therapy felt better. They had 50% less pain, anxiety, fatigue, and nausea. These effects lasted up to 48 hours.As a result of this study, a few insurance companies now cover massage therapy during cancer treatment.
- Try mind-body therapies: Research studies show that mind-body therapies can help cancer patients relax and feel better. Examples of mind-body therapy include meditation, yoga, biofeedback, and prayer.In one study, researchers found women who focused on calming thoughts while on chemotherapy had a better quality of life.
- Find the right dermatologist for you. Melanoma survivors say it’s important to find a dermatologist with expertise in treating melanoma and with whom you feel comfortable.If you feel uncomfortable with your dermatologist or don’t have a dermatologist, you can find one by going to Find a dermatologist.
- Protect your skin from the sun and avoid tanning beds. While lying in the sun may feel relaxing, protecting your skin from the sun and avoid tanning beds can help you stay as healthy as possible.Melanoma survivors say that having (had) melanoma motivates them to protect their skin. Many want to stay alive to care for their family. Others want to set a good example for their children, so they take sun protection seriously.In studies, some melanoma survivors said that being caught outdoors without sun protection makes them feel extremely anxious. To avoid this feeling, they plan ahead.
- Check your skin for signs of skin cancer and keep all follow-up appointments with your dermatologist. Studies suggest that after treatment, taking action to find melanoma early may ease anxiety and depression.Some survivors say they see a dermatologist because it’s an effective way to find a new melanoma early before it has a chance to spread.One survivor had this say about dermatology follow-up appointments, “I have this feeling of relief, even if she [dermatologist] finds something, because it’s going to be taken care of.”
If all of this seems overwhelming right now, try starting with one thing, such as thinking about the positive things you’re doing to fight your cancer.
Bonnaud-Antignac A, Bourdon M, et al. “Coping strategies at the time of diagnosis and quality of life 2 years later: A study in primary cutaneous melanoma patients.” Cancer Nurs. 2017;40(1):E45-E53.
Cassileth BR, Vickers AJ. “Massage therapy for symptom control: outcome study at a major cancer center.” J Pain Symptom Manage. 2004;28(3):244-9.
Oliveria SA, Shuk E, et al. “Melanoma survivors: Health behaviors, surveillance, psychosocial factors, and family concerns.” Psychooncology. 2013;22(1):106-16.
Poole, CM. “Tending to your spirits.” In: Melanoma — Not just skin cancer. South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2015:115-27.