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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Melanoma Skin Cancer a Chronic Disease Causing Long-Term Problems for Women

Women need additional care, including follow-up and possibly counseling to optimally cope with melanoma

Feb. 21, 2011 – Melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer, is considered a chronic life-threatening disease and a source of significant stress. Women, however, seem to experience more health-related quality of life issues than men for up to 10 years after being diagnosed with melanoma, says a new report.

"Although the prognosis is relatively good for about 80 percent of patients with melanoma, they remain at risk for disease progression and have an increased risk of developing subsequent melanomas," according to the research report in the February issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

 

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Previous studies have suggested about one-third of patients with melanoma have reported significant levels of distress. "Therefore, melanoma can be considered a chronic life-threatening disease that may affect patients' lives considerably."

To assess the impact of melanoma on the health-related quality of life of patients for up to 10 years after diagnosis, Cynthia Holterhues, M.D., from Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues, analyzed responses from a Dutch population-based postal survey among patients with melanoma for 1998 to 2008 using the Eindhoven Cancer Registry.

Study participants were sent an impact of cancer survey to measure the well-being of long-term cancer survivors. The 41-item survey included questions on physical, psychological, social, existential, meaning of cancer and health worry.

The response rate to the survey was 80 percent (562 participants). The average age of the respondents was about 57 years, 62 percent were female and 76 percent had a melanoma with a thickness of less than 2 millimeters.

"Women were significantly more likely to report higher levels of both positive and negative impacts of cancer," the authors write.

The lowest scores were on questions about cancer or treatment-related symptoms of the cancer that interferes with a patients' socializing, traveling, or time with family.

The highest score was seen on existential, positive outlook subscale, which covers increased wisdom and spirituality because of the cancer experience.

"Women seemed to adjust their sun behavior more often (54 percent vs. 67 percent) than men and were more worried about the deleterious effects of UV radiation (45 percent vs. 66 percent)."

In addition, the researchers note that this cancer may also affect other parts of patients' lives. "A small proportion of individuals experienced difficulties in getting health insurance as a result of their melanoma, but up to a third of the patients experienced difficulty getting life insurance, disability insurance and/or a mortgage."

"In clinical practice, this observation may imply that women need additional care, including follow-up and possibly counseling to optimally cope with their melanoma,” the authors say in conclusion. “However, men might be less aware of general measures of sun protection and need education about these measures after treatment."

About Melannoma

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal or "ugly looking."

Thinking of "ABCD" can help you remember what to watch for:
     ● Asymmetry - the shape of one half does not match the other
     ● - the edges are ragged, blurred or irregular
     ● Color - the color in uneven and may include shades of black, brown and tan
     ● Diameter - there is a change in size, usually an increase

Melanoma can be cured if it is diagnosed and treated early. If melanoma is not removed in its early stages, cancer cells may grow downward from the skin surface and invade healthy tissue. If it spreads to other parts of the body it can be difficult to control.

>> What you need to know about melanoma and skin cancer at National Cancer Institute

>> More information at MedlinePlus

 

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