Newly Diagnosed with Melanoma or Non-melanoma Skin Cancer?

You’ve been diagnosed with melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer, and you're wondering "Now what?" 

Learning that you have melanoma or another form of non-melanoma skin cancer can leave you wondering what happens next. First, try not to panic— most skin cancers are cured when detected early. Next, choose a skin cancer specialist (oncologist) so you can learn more about the type of skin cancer you have (melanoma or non-melanoma), including how far it has spread and how deep it goes into your skin, as well as the potential treatment plan. 

As with many other cancers, treatment is dependent on cancer type. With skin cancer, there are quite a few types that make the type of treatment vary.  

What Kind of Doctor Should I See First?

Some dermatologists have experience in treating skin cancer and skin cancer surgery. In cases such as this, skin cancer can be removed right there in the office, with no further treatment. 

If your skin cancer will require further treatment after removal, or if the skin cancer is located in an area that’s difficult to operate on, an oncologist may be the best option. An oncologist is most familiar with all of the various cancer treatment drugs, clinical trials, radiation treatments, and supportive care services that cancer patients may need during treatment. 

Your oncologist will spend time with you and your loved ones to understand your specific situation and will develop a specific treatment plan for you based on which type of skin cancer you have been diagnosed with. When needed, they will connect you with additional specialists such as:

  • Skin cancer surgeon and/or plastic surgeon
  • Radiation oncologist who can offer external radiation therapy called brachytherapy
  • Oncology nurses who are familiar with the skin cancer treatment process, side effects and how to best manage them

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Keep Notes and Records

A cancer diagnosis comes with a lot of information so before you even see an oncologist we suggest you purchase a special notebook and folder where you can take notes and keep your paperwork together for your skin cancer treatment regimen. It’s a good idea to start taking notes as soon as you receive a diagnosis. Even if you’re seeing a dermatologist before you consult with an oncologist, there may be questions, dates, medicine schedules, and personal thoughts you’d like to jot down so they can be shared.

If you’d prefer an electronic method for compiling information, a laptop, tablet, or smartphone will work, too. Whatever you choose it’s best to stay consistent with it. 

Questions to Ask Your Oncologist

Some questions you might want to ask the oncologist about your skin cancer diagnosis and treatment plan may include:

  • What preventative measures can you take to protect yourself in order to minimize the risk of developing more skin cancer?
  • Is surgery required? If not, what are the other treatment options?
  • Will you need a plastic surgeon?
  • What kind of side effects should you expect from the treatment that’s chosen?
  • Are there recommendations for eating, exercising, or other activities that you should be aware of?
  • What to expect during your appointments? You may want to read our “Preparing for Your First Visit” section before arriving at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute.
  • Is there a clinical trial that could be considered?

We encourage you to request an appointment with the cancer care team at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center to discuss your individual situation or any questions that you may have.

How Fast Should I Make Decisions?

With skin cancer, it’s important to act but not so fast that you miss opportunities to listen to the recommended treatment plan and consider any questions you may have. Scheduling an appointment with an oncologist is the first step after being diagnosed. 

The skin cancer experts at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute are here to serve you with care, both physically and emotionally, as you journey through dealing with skin cancer.

Should I Get a Second Opinion?

It’s important that you feel confident about your diagnosis. Therefore, you may want to get a second opinion before beginning any treatment plan. At WVCI, our oncologists provide many second opinions— for all types of cancer diagnoses and treatment plans. Most insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check with your insurance provider to check your coverage before making an appointment.

To schedule a second opinion with one of our physicians, please choose a location that is convenient for you and call our office to make an appointment. WVCI has offices located in the Corvallis, Eugene, and Florence areas. 

Support Groups and Other Services

We know this is a difficult time, but you can do this— and the cancer care specialists at WVCI are ready to help you every step of the way. We’re here to answer questions and connect you with the resources you need. Visit our Patient Resources page for more information. 

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After Skin Cancer Treatment

Depending on your initial skin cancer treatment, follow up cancer treatments may be recommended to supplement and/or keep a close watch on your skin. Your WVCI cancer care team will inform you of what is recommended based on your unique skin cancer treatment plan.

Precautions for Skin Cancer Prevention

To help keep future skin cancers from developing, there are certain precautions you can take.  Because skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure from the sun we suggest you limit exposure. However, being a resident of Oregon, it’s unlikely you’ll want to stay indoors for long. When you do go out, consider these preventative tips:  

  • Cover up with a shirt, even when swimming. Many swim shirts are available that offer SPF or UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) fabric in case your sunscreen lotion wears off. If you don’t have a shirt that states that it offers sun protection, consider a darker colored or a brighter colored shirt that blocks more of the sun’s rays versus a light or white shirt.
  • Seek shade as often as possible. 
  • Cover your head with a hat. Scalps are very vulnerable when it comes to the sun. 
  • Wear sunglasses. The area around our eyes and our actual eyes can develop cancer from sun exposure. Be sure your lenses block UV rays.
  • Use sunscreen 30 SPF or higher and reapply every 2 hours or after getting out of the water. Don’t forget your ears! Apply to dry, not wet skin so it soaks into your skin rather than running off.
  • Use SPF lip balm. Our lips are covered in skin and can develop cancer too!
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps at all costs.

Early detection is the best way to make sure that skin cancer or melanoma can be treated with success. Be sure to get familiar with your skin and stay mindful of any changes you see. If any moles or patches of skin look abnormal, talk with your doctor about having a skin test. 

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