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Q. What support groups are there for people with skin cancer? My brother was diagnosed two months ago and I think he could benefit from one.

A.

It’s never easy to adjust to a cancer diagnosis. Everything changes when you hear the words “you have cancer.” It is a time when many people need extra support. Speaking to an oncology social worker can help reduce the stress of adjusting to a diagnosis and assist with understanding treatment options, side effects, disclosure and finances/insurance issues. I always emphasize that reaching out for help is a sign of strength. Oncology social workers are trained in how a diagnosis of cancer affects a person and his or her family and friends. They are also trained to help cancer patients and their families tackle the problems that accompany the disease, such as the financial demands, the physical changes, social adjustment and psychological impact, and care. Adjusting to and dealing with the diagnosis is an important part of the healing process.

Cancer often makes people feel isolated. Joining a support group allows people with cancer to feel less alone because they are talking with others who are experiencing similar fears and concerns. They can speak opening and freely without feeling that they are being a burden to friends and loved ones. Please know, your brother would have to call himself for these services.

CancerCare can provide that help in many ways. Currently, we have an online group for people with melanoma. Our registration process is streamlined so it is very user friendly. We can also provide individual telephone counseling. All of our services are free of charge, and our services are for both the people with cancer and their loved ones.

The Cancer Hope Network is a way to connect, by telephone, with an individual with a similar diagnosis. Their volunteer survivors are trained to talk you through some of the common difficulties that come along with any diagnoses.

Please remember that you and your brother are not alone. CancerCare’s services are here to help you.

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Answers from Other Experts About Skin Cancer

  • Q.

    How do I find doctors who specialize in treating melanoma?

    A.

    Finding a doctor who specializes in melanoma and skin cancers can significantly improve the recovery process and cancer survivorship. It’s important to find a doctor who understands the intricacies and dynamics of living with a melanoma diagnosis. You want to find a doctor who regularly treats melanoma and can address the needs of people living with this type of cancer. A dermatologist, for instance, would be more informed about melanoma. Although a doctor’s personality should not impact treatment, it can be extremely helpful if we feel comfortable speaking with our doctor.

    To find a doctor who specializes in treating melanoma you may first want to consult with your primary care physician and request a referral. Your family members, friends or colleagues may know of a doctor who specializes in this type of cancer. A representative from your health insurance company may also assist you in seeking a doctor whose specialty is melanoma. Speaking with your insurance representative would also help you understand your coverage and learn whether or not you would be allowed to go out of network to see a specialist.

    Understanding your doctor’s credentials and training can be helpful in making educated decisions regarding your diagnosis and treatment. Pay attention to a doctor’s credentials and don’t be afraid to ask about his/her education and training. Some doctors including dermatologists may choose additional training in their specialty.

    When searching for a doctor, some questions to ask yourself include:

    • Does this doctor have the appropriate education and training to address my type of cancer?
    • Will this doctor listen to my needs and treat me with respect?
    • Does this doctor clearly explain treatment options to me that I understand and encourage me to ask questions about my diagnosis and treatment?
    • Do I feel as if I am an important part of the medical team?

    Finding the right treatment facility for you is equally as important to finding the right doctor. Locating a comprehensive cancer center, for instance, may provide access to a number of doctors to whom you could reach out and learn about treatment options and alternatives for you to consider.

    In discussing your melanoma diagnosis, questions to ask include:

    • How large is the tumor and has it metastasized?
    • Will surgery alone be able to remove the cancer or will I need additional treatment?
    • What are the treatments available for my type of cancer?
    • Are there any potential side effects related to my treatment?
    • Am I at risk for a recurrence of melanoma or other type of cancer?
    • How frequently will I have to follow up with you?

    And finally, the American Academy of Dermatology provides a Find a Dermatologist database through their website.

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