Looking after yourself after a melanoma diagnosis

A diagnosis of melanoma can cause physical and emotional strain.

Eating well, exercising and relaxing may help to reduce your stress and improve your wellbeing. Addressing changes in your emotions and relationships early on is also important.

For more information, read the Cancer Society’s booklet ‘Coping with Cancer’.

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Coping with a change in appearance after surgery

Depending on their size and location, some scars left after surgery may affect your appearance. Scars may be small or you may have large areas of skin that look different. People cope with changes in appearance in different ways. Some may feel self-conscious, while others may not be concerned. If you are finding it difficult to adjust to any change, it is useful to seek support. Talk to your treatment team, someone close to you or a counsellor. You can also phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) for information about support available in your area.


Fear of your melanoma coming back

Feeling worried about your melanoma coming back is not uncommon. Many people who have had melanoma say that with time, they feel less anxious about the chance of their cancer coming back. You may feel more anxious at times such as the anniversary of the day you were diagnosed, or hearing about melanoma in the media.

“Cancer will always leave a scar. The scars are internal, they’re emotional, they’re intellectual, and they are physical. The physical scars are probably the least of my worries. I found the emotional scars the hardest to cope with.” Jill


How can you help to manage your fears?

Talk to your treatment team about the symptoms you need to look out for and discuss what your regular follow-up schedule might be. You may want to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience. The Cancer Society runs a telephone peer-support service called Cancer Connect that you may find useful. Phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) for a referral to this service.

There are many ways to manage your fears. For some it can be helpful to reflect on or write about their cancer experiences, while other people may choose to talk with a counsellor or psychologist. To find support in your local area, contact your GP or your local Cancer Society or phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

"Make fear of recurrence a ‘back-seat passenger’ in your life rather than let it sit up front and annoy you all day and night. You can also book an appointment with your recurrence fear, say 30 minutes a day. You can worry as much as you like during this time but otherwise you have to send it to the back seat and tell it to be quiet.” Sue (GP)


How families/whānau can help

As a friend or family/whānau member of someone who is diagnosed with melanoma, you are also learning to cope with your own feelings and emotions. You may want to help but not know what to do.

Here are some suggestions that may be useful:

• Learn about melanoma and its treatment. This will help you to understand what the person you are supporting is coping with.

• Be thoughtful about offering advice. Listening while they talk or just being there with them, are good ways to show you care.

• Talk about your feelings together and be honest about what worries you.

• Offer to go to appointments with them. You can be there for support, take notes or, when appropriate, take part in the


• Respect that your family/whānau member or friend may want to talk to their treatment team alone.

The Cancer Society offers a range of resources to support you. We suggest you read ‘Supporting Someone with Cancer’.


Where to find cultural and spiritual support

Hospitals throughout New Zealand have trained health workers available to support your spiritual, cultural and advocacy needs. They may include Māori and Pacific health workers who will work with you and your family/whānau. Hospital chaplains are available to offer support through prayer and quiet reflection.

Community health workers based at your local marae or community based Pacific health service may also be good sources of support.


Interpreting services are available

New Zealand’s Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights states that everyone has the right to have an interpreter present during a medical consultation. If you do not speak English as your first language or you are deaf, you may find it helpful to use an interpreter when you have your hospital appointments. Speak to a member of your health care team about arranging interpreters in your local area.



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