If you have melanoma skin cancer that has spread from your skin to distant lymph nodes or other parts of your body, it’s known as stage 4 melanoma.
Stage 4 melanoma is difficult to cure, but getting treatment may help you live longer and improve your quality of life. Reaching out for support may also help you cope with the social, emotional, or financial challenges of living with this condition.
Take a moment to learn about some of the steps you can take to manage stage 4 melanoma.
Your doctor’s recommended treatment plan for stage 4 melanoma will depend on several factors, such as:
- your age and overall health
- where the cancer has spread in your body
- how your body has responded to past treatments
- your treatment goals and preferences
Depending on your specific condition and treatment goals, your doctor might recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- immunotherapy to boost your immune system’s response against melanoma
- targeted therapy drugs to help block the action of certain molecules inside melanoma cancer cells
- surgery to remove enlarged lymph nodes or melanoma tumors
- radiation therapy to shrink or slow the growth of tumors
- chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
Your doctor might also recommend palliative therapy to help treat the symptoms of melanoma or the side effects from other treatments. For example, they may prescribe medications or other palliative treatments to help manage pain and fatigue.
When you’re getting treatment for stage 4 melanoma, it’s important to attend regular visits with your treatment team. This can help your doctor and other treatment providers monitor how your body responds to treatment. It can also help them learn if any changes are needed to your treatment plan.
Let your treatment team know if:
- you develop new or worsened symptoms
- you think you might be experiencing side effects from treatment
- you’re finding it difficult to follow your recommended treatment plan
- your treatment goals or preferences change
- you develop any other health conditions
If your current treatment plan isn’t working well for you, your doctor might encourage you to stop receiving certain treatments, start receiving other treatments, or both.
It’s not unusual to experience feelings of anxiety, grief, or anger after getting a diagnosis of cancer. Reaching out for support may help you work through these emotions.
For example, it might help to connect with other people who have melanoma. Consider asking your doctor if they know about any local support groups for people with this condition. You can also connect with others through online support groups, discussion boards, or social media.
Speaking with a professional counselor may also help you cope with the emotional challenges of living with this disease. Your doctor may refer you to a social worker or psychologist for individual or group therapy.
Your friends, family members, and other loved ones may provide important support throughout your treatment process.
For example, they might be able to:
- drive you to medical appointments
- pick up medications, groceries, or other supplies
- help you with child care, house work, or other duties
- stop by for visits and spend other quality time with you
If you feel overwhelmed or in need of support, consider letting your loved ones know. They may be able to help manage some of the practical and emotional challenges of living with stage 4 melanoma.
If you can afford it, hiring professional support may also help you manage your daily responsibilities and self-care needs. For example, you might be able to hire a personal support worker to help manage your medical care. Hiring a babysitter, dog-walking service, or professional cleaning service may help you manage some of your responsibilities at home.
If you’re finding it difficult to manage the financial costs of your treatment plan, let your treatment team know.
They may be able to refer you to patient assistance programs or other financial support services to help reduce the costs of your care. They may also be able to adjust your treatment plan to make it more affordable.
Some cancer organizations also offer financial assistance for treatment-related travel, housing, or other costs of living.
Consider searching Cancer Care’s online database of financial support programs to learn if you may be eligible for assistance.
Many treatments are available to help shrink or slow the growth of melanoma tumors, relieve symptoms, and improve quality of life.
Seeking support from friends, family members, and professional services may also help you cope with the challenges of living with melanoma.
To learn more about your treatment options and support services, talk to your treatment team. They can help you understand the potential benefits, risks, and costs of different treatments. They may also refer you to local support groups, financial assistance programs, or other support services.