Since it is Halloween, I thought I would discuss a scary topic...Recurrence.
Most people are under the impression that when you are diagnosed with melanoma, a doctor will "cut" the melanoma out, and "you will be fine." I have been told that over and over again. Here's the thing: That is not always true. Even if you catch melanoma in the early stages, there is a slight chance that it will come back. When melanoma returns, it is called a Recurrence.
Melanoma warriors hate the idea of a recurrence. Obviously, right? I know what you are thinking. The likelihood of melanoma returning after you "beat" it is slim. Wrong! According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, "Melanoma patients have a high risk of developing new melanomas. Some also are at risk of a recurrence of the original melanoma in nearby skin or in other parts of the body."
Since I am stage III, I am going to discuss the likelihood of me having a recurrence. While trying to find reliable sources to find statistics since I do not know the actual numbers (I try to ignore these scary numbers) I found this depressing statement. On the American Cancer Society's page discussing melanoma, it discusses using adjuvant therapy with interferon to help "fight off recurrence longer."
OK...maybe I am being fussy, but I absolutely hate the way that they have worded the above statement. I am all about positive thinking...I guess this is why I do not look at these sites, huh?
Anyway, proof that recurrence is likely is in their use of the word "longer." If recurrence was not popular, I believe they would have simply said, "...using adjuvant therapy with interferon to help fight off recurrence." Maybe I am getting too upset about their use of the word "longer." Maybe....
According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, the risk of recurrence depends on a few things:
"thickness of the primary tumor, with thicker tumors carrying greater risk than thin tumors, the presence of ulceration in the primary tumor and the presence of satellite metastases surrounding the primary tumor. The probability that melanoma will recur after appropriate treatment is characterized as low- intermediate-risk, or high-risk.
- Low-risk: less than 20% risk of recurrence
- Intermediate-risk: 20-50% risk of recurrence
- High-risk: greater than 50% risk of recurrence. High-risk melanoma has a high probability of having already spread to local or distant sites at the time of treatment." (article here.)
If you would like to view other scary statistics, click here. My 5-year Relative Survival (%) is 61.7. Improvement! When I first started viewing the statistics, before my doctors warned me against looking at them, my 5-year survival rate was somewhere in the 50% range.
Next time you hear of someone having melanoma, please be sensitive. It is not "just" skin cancer. It is scary. It is a guessing game for even the medical world. It is my version of The Wicked Witch...How dare melanoma try to take my happiness!
My red slippers are on & I am ready to fight.