Skin Cancer Diagnosis
You’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer. Now what?
Any type of cancer diagnosis is upsetting. It is important to understand that the type of cancer you have will determine your course of treatment. Today, there are more options for treating skin cancer.
You may have received a diagnosis after an exam by your primary care doctor or a dermatologist. The next step would be choosing a skin cancer specialist – also called an oncologist – for your skin cancer treatment plan.
First you’ll learn more about the type of skin cancer you have: melanoma or nonmelanoma. And you’ll learn more about how far the cancer has spread or how deep it goes into your skin. Much of this information comes from the biopsy that was performed to determine the type of skin cancer it is.
What Kind of Doctor should I See First?
Some dermatologists have experience in treating skin cancer and skin cancer surgery. In some cases the skin cancer can be removed quickly and easily by a dermatologist and no further treatment is needed, but regular follow up is recommended.
If your skin cancer will require further treatment after removal, or if the skin cancer is located in an area that’s difficult to operate on, an oncologist may be the best option. A skin cancer oncologist is most familiar with all of the various cancer treatment drugs, clinical trials, radiation treatments and supportive care services that cancer patients may need during treatment.
Your oncologist will spend time with you and your loved ones to understand your specific situation and will consult with the New York Oncology Hematology team of skin cancer experts. We develop a personalized treatment plan and will connect you with additional specialists as needed, including:
- Skin cancer surgeon and/or plastic surgeon.
- Radiation oncologist who can offer external radiation therapy, called brachytherapy.
- Oncology nurses who are familiar with the skin cancer treatment process, side effects and how to best manage them.
Keep Notes and Records
Before you see an oncologist, we recommend getting a notebook and folder to take notes and keep paperwork together for your skin cancer treatment. Or, you may prefer using the “notes” feature on your phone.
Start this notebook as soon as you’re diagnosed, even if you’re seeing a dermatologist before you consult with an oncologist. Keep track of questions, dates, medicine schedules and how you are feeling. This is all important information to share with your skin cancer specialist.
Questions to Ask
Things you might want to ask about your skin cancer diagnosis and treatment plan include:
- What should I do to protect myself from the sun to avoid more skin cancer developing?
- Is surgery required? If not, what are the other treatment options?
- Will I need a plastic surgeon?
- What kind of side effects should I expect from the chosen treatment ?
- Are there recommendations for eating, exercising or other activities that I should be aware of?
- What should I expect at my appointments? You may want to read our “Your First Visit” section before arriving at NYOH.
- Are clinical trials an option?
How Fast Should I Make Decisions?
With skin cancer, it’s important to act but not so fast that you miss opportunities to listen to the recommended treatment plan and consider any questions you may have. The first step is typically scheduling an appointment with a skin cancer oncologist who will consult with his/her team to give you their best recommendation.
The skin cancer experts at New York Oncology Hematology are here to serve you with care for you, during your skin cancer journey.
Should I Get a Second Opinion?
You should feel confident about your diagnosis. Many patients choose to get a second opinion before beginning any treatment plan. At New York Oncology Hematology, our oncologists provide many second opinions – for all types of cancer diagnoses and treatment plans. Most insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check with your insurance provider to check your coverage before making an appointment.
Over the past 20 years, New York Oncology Hematology patients have participated in clinical drug trials leading to FDA approval of 41 new cancer therapies. Since 2011, eight new therapies have been approved for melanoma (four immunotherapy treatments and four targeted therapies).
With the largest, most comprehensive clinical research operation in the region, NYOH is constantly offering eligible patients opportunities to join new trials. Learn more and view open trials. Be sure to ask your physician if any current trials are a good fit for you.
After Skin Cancer Treatment
Following specific skin cancer treatments, it is possible that follow up cancer treatments will be recommended. Your physician may also want to keep a close watch on your skin. At NYOH, we will recommend your follow up care, based on your unique skin cancer treatment plan.
Support Groups and Other Services
We know this is a difficult time, but you can do this. And New York Oncology Hematology’s team of 30 physicians and 350 cancer care specialists are ready to help you every step of the way. We’re here to answer questions and connect you with the resources you need. Visit our Supportive Care page for more information.
For your convenience, NYOH cancer treatment centers are located in Albany, Amsterdam, Hudson, Troy, and Clifton Park in Saratoga County.