Patients and Caregivers Are on the 'Frontline' of Melanoma Monitoring

Brielle Urciuoli

Patients and their caregivers are often on the “frontline” of monitoring any suspicious moles or lesions for melanoma or possible recurrences. So, it is crucial that they know what to look for, and what warrants a trip into the doctor’s office.

Recent research, conducted at NYU Langone Health and presented at the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Annual Congress, sought to find out how patients with melanoma perceived skin health education, and their willingness be involved in their own surveillance or a loved one’s.

“We felt it was important to conduct this project because it was almost self-evident that patients’ health support teams were playing a huge role in detecting melanomas,” Andrea Fry, AOCNP, FNP-BC, from NYU Langone Health, said in an interview with CURE. “We were doubtful that existing melanoma education was being designed with this in mind.”

When it comes to monitoring for a potential melanoma occurrence – which 20 to 30 percent of patients with stage 1 or 2 melanoma face – involving someone else can be crucial, since there is a whole half of the body that patients cannot see. This includes areas such as the back, scalp and buttocks – none of which are immune to melanoma.

“To add another set of eyes to surveillance solves that problem,” Fry said.

Fry and her team conducted interviews with 20 patients who were being treated for melanoma at the NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center.

The results were split. Fifty-five percent reported that they agreed or strongly agreed that they had received sufficient education from their health care providers on melanoma, self-skin surveillance and characteristics of suspicious lesions. However, 45 percent said that they disagreed or strongly disagreed or were uncertain that prior education from their health care providers on melanoma had been adequate.

“I think this is just indicative of how uneven melanoma education has been conducted across the population,” Fry said. “Clearly there’s room for improvement.”

However, all participants expressed a desire to take an active role in their own skin surveillance, and they all found the education session to be useful, too – especially when it came to spotting the signs of a melanoma lesion.

When it came to their loved ones being involved, 75 percent said that they agreed or strongly agreed that their health support teams, such as their spouse/partner, friend, family member, etc., currently assisted them in skin surveillance.

“It is definitely a hopeful message, and this was not a surprising finding,” Fry said. “Melanoma patients understand that they, and their health support teams, are on the ‘front lines’ of their own surveillance. They realize, to achieve the best prognosis, it’s all about detecting suspicious lesions earlier in the evolution, when it has far more favorable prognosis. It is always a good thing when patients are involved in their own health care and want the tools to do so.”

Fry also mentioned that if a patient is concerned about a skin lesion, they should always seek out the opinion of a health care professional and not self-diagnose. Moving forward, better patient and caregiver education can help identify something that should be called to the attention of a doctor.

“Melanoma education programs work, and they’d work even more effectively if we engaged the health support team in their designation and implementation,” Fry said. “It stands to reason that the more eyes you have involved in surveillance, the better the outcome.”
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