Health Check Ups & Monitoring

Following a melanoma diagnosis and/or treatment, it is essential to follow up with regular health checks and monitoring as per your medical team’s advice. It’s also important to understand your melanoma risk.

Melanoma Statistics

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Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world
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Melanoma is the most common cancer in Australians aged 20-39 years
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Melanoma affects over 16,000 Australians annually

Understanding your Melanoma Risk

The risk of melanoma is based on a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There are some things you can do to minimise your risk factors, such as minimising sun exposure, however, other risk factors, such as family history, cannot be changed.

People at a higher risk of melanoma include those who have:

  • More than 50 moles on their body – this is the strongest risk predictor for melanoma
  • A family history of melanoma
  • Light or red hair, blue eyes and fair, freckled skin

It should be noted that having a risk factor doesn’t mean you will get melanoma – or develop another melanoma.

For those who have already had a melanoma diagnosis, the risk of developing a second primary melanoma is approximately 10%. Statistically, the risk is highest within the initial 5 years after the first melanoma diagnosis, with second and third melanomas sometimes detected. For this reason, follow up checks and regular monitoring are essential.

Routine Health Checks/Monitoring

If you have the above mentioned risk factors, or you’ve previously been diagnosed with melanoma, you will need to schedule regular health checks.

Skin Surveillance

Full skin examinations are vital

  • Process: A top-to-toe check, including examination of lymph nodes, melanoma scars and any lesions you are concerned about
  • Who? Your skin surveillance can be undertaken by a dermatologist or your GP
  • Frequency: Depends on your individual risk factors, generally 3-6 monthly if you have a history of melanoma. Discuss this with your doctor

The importance of self-examination

  • Frequent self-examination is strongly advised. Choose a date, such as the 1st of each month or Full Moon to check your own skin
  • Ask your partner or a close friend to check anywhere you can’t see yourself – Hairdressers are a great option for your scalp.

The ABCDE rule – Look for:

  • Asymmetry
  • Border irregularity
  • Colours – Does it have multiple colours?
  • Diameter – is it more than 5mm?
  • Evolution – is it new or changing?

Remember, melanoma comes in all shapes, sizes and colours. If you’re concerned, get it checked by a doctor.

Also look at any scars. Any pigmentation within the scar needs to be checked by your health professional.

Monitoring after treatment for Stage 3 & 4 patients

Monitoring for melanoma recurrence is recommended through:

  • Physical check-ups (which includes self-examination)
  • PET or CT scans every 6 months
  • Brain scans (MRI or CT) every 6 months
Skin Surveillance Adjuncts

Research projects

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation are currently conducting a research project which includes the trial of a machine that scans almost the entire skin surface, producing a 3D image of the body. The outcome is an avatar of the body and dermoscopic images. Trials are being conducted in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane including participants with various skin history backgrounds.

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is an area currently being researched. Ai is not currently used routinely in practice, as it is still in development. In the future, Ai is predicted to become part of skin checks and the monitoring of moles and lesions.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Health Checks and Monitoring
  • What symptoms do I need to look out for?
  • If I notice a new symptom, what should I do?
  • How often do I need to return for follow up tests?
  • What do the follow up tests involve?
  • Where will the follow up tests be carried out?
  • How will I get the test results?
  • What is the cost of my follow-up care?
  • Who is the best person to contact if I have any questions?
  • Is there someone I can talk to about how I’m feeling?

Where to Find Support and Further Information

Vist our Support page or call us on 1300 88 44 50 to get more information on resources that are available to you or to be connected to our Melanoma Telehealth Nurse.

Join our supportive Facebook Community and reach out for emotional support or to ask for advice.

For further information visit the Cancer Australia website.

Reference: Health Checks & Monitoring webinar, 9 November 2021, presented by Professor Peter Soyer and Dr Hannah Gribbin, Dermatology Research Centre, University of Queensland and Professor Mark Shackleton, Director of Oncology, Alfred Health and Monash University.

Disclaimer: This information is general advice and does not consider your objectives, health situation or needs. Specific medical advice must be tailored to the individual. This information will give you a general idea of the options available to you, however, you’ll need to determine what is appropriate for you.