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Just diagnosed with skin cancer

If diagnosed and treated early, melanoma is nearly 100% curable.

If melanoma is diagnosed at an early stage then the main treatment is surgery, although your treatment will depend on your circumstances.

If non-melanoma skin cancer is suspected, your doctor should be able to confirm the diagnosis by carrying out a physical examination. However, they will probably also do a biopsy.

The outlook for non-melanoma skin cancer is usually very good. Unlike most other types of cancer, there is a considerably lower risk that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body (known as 'metastasis').

Sometimes, skin cancer can be diagnosed and treated at the same time. In other words, the tumour can be removed and tested and you may not need any further treatment because the cancer is unlikely to spread.

Living with skin cancer

The leading cause of all types of skin cancer - melanoma and non-melanoma - is exposure to UV radiation, from the sun’s rays or other sources such as sunlamps.

The chance of your melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer returning is higher if your previous cancer was particularly widespread and severe. You can reduce your chances of developing skin cancer either, by avoiding overexposure to ultra-violet (UV) light, using sunscreen and dressing sensibly, avoiding sunbeds and regularly checking your skin for signs of melanoma.

If you have been diagnosed with melanoma, you may find it helpful to bring these questions to your next doctor’s visit, so you can organise your life and access any help you may need:

  • Do you know what stage of melanoma I have? What is the size, in millimetres, of the melanoma? What is the depth of the melanoma?
  • Was the biopsy surgery able to remove all of the cancer? Do I need additional surgery?
  • What are the chances of my cancer coming back?
  • Will I need additional tests or procedures to confirm the stage of my melanoma?
  • Will I need additional surgery?
  • Should I have another type(s) of treatment following surgery?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?
  • What are the goals of this treatment?
  • What is my prognosis if I follow this treatment plan?
  • What follow-up care is necessary?
  • How frequently should I follow up with you for a skin cancer screening?
  • What steps can I take to reduce my risk of developing another melanoma?
  • What is the risk of my family members developing melanoma?

Your doctor or specialist will be able to answer your questions and advise you on managing your skin cancer.

Support groups

Last reviewed: September 2016

Recommended links

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There are 3 types of skin cancer and they are named after the type of skin cell they start from. These are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma skin cancer.

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Melanoma - myDr.com.au

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. Most melanomas arise as a new spot on previously normal skin, rather than from a pre-existing mole.

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Combined Nevus - Skin Cancer Clinic

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Non-melanoma - Cancer Council Australia

Find out about non-melanoma cancer, including information on incidence and mortality, screening, symptoms and diagnosis, causes, prevention, treatment and prognosis.

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Check for signs and symptoms of skin cancer - Cancer Council Australia

Is it a mole or is it skin cancer? Learn how to check yourself for skin cancers and recognise signs of melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

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