Canadian Cancer Society logo

Melanoma

You are here: 

Follow-up after treatment for melanoma

Melanoma behaves differently in each person, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. People with melanoma should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation. Follow-up care is often shared among the dermatologist, surgeon, cancer specialists (oncologists) and family doctor. Follow-up care with a dermatologist is very important as there is an 8% lifetime risk of having another primary melanoma.

After treatment has ended, new signs and symptoms that don’t go away should be reported to the doctor without waiting for the next scheduled appointment. These may include:

  • any new or unusual pigmented lesions
  • any mole or spot that is changing in size, shape, colour or elevation
  • any mole or spot that is itchy, ulcerated or bleeding
  • swelling of lymph nodes

Melanoma can recur even after 10 years, so life-long follow up is usually recommended.

Schedule

Follow-up after melanoma treatment varies. It can be different depending on the stage of melanoma and a person’s family history.

  • Follow-up visits for people with stage 0 or IA melanoma are usually scheduled every year.
  • People with stage IV melanoma may require follow-up visits:
    • every 2–3 months for the first 2 years
    • every 3–6 months for the next 3 years
    • every year after that
  • People with all other stages melanoma may require follow-up visits:
    • every 3–6 months for the first 2–3 years
    • every 4–12 months for the next 2 years
    • every year after that

Procedures

During a follow-up visit, the doctor usually asks questions about the side effects of treatment and how the person is coping. The doctor may do a complete physical examination, including:

  • checking the scar and surrounding area
  • feeling the nearby lymph nodes
    • checking the lymph nodes behind the knee and in the groin for a melanoma on the leg
    • checking the lymph nodes in the groin, armpits, collar bones and neck for a melanoma on the chest, back or abdomen
    • checking the lymph nodes by the neck, chin, collar bone and ears
  • checking the skin from head to toe for any other abnormal looking moles or spots

Tests may be ordered as part of follow-up or if the doctor suspects the cancer has come back (has recurred).

If a recurrence is found during follow-up, the oncology team will assess the person with cancer to determine the best treatment options.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about follow-up after treatment.

Stories

 Bree Garnier at Relay For Life I think the hope is that it creates awareness – that others see Bree as someone who is making a difference.

Read Bree's story

Volunteers provide comfort and kindness

Illustration of volunteers

Thousands of Canadian Cancer Society volunteers work in regional cancer centres, lodges and community hospitals to support people receiving treatment.

Learn more