Lifestyle Changes to Manage Melanoma
by Debra Wood, RN
If melanoma is in advanced stages and you are using a combination of treatments, lifestyle changes can help:
Smoking introduces toxic chemicals into the body. Smoking increases the risk of cancer. It also increases the risk of complications from medical procedures and slows tissue healing.
When you quit smoking, the body immediately begins to repair itself. Quitting will help boost your immune system to help fight the cancer and improve recovery from treatment.
Limit Ultraviolet Radiation Exposure TOP
The most common source of ultraviolet (UV) exposure is the sun. If you have melanoma, it is important to limit sun exposure. Treatment makes your skin more sensitive to the effects of the sun, increasing the likelihood of a sunburn.
Limit UV exposure by:
Reduce Your Risk of Infection TOP
Cancer and its treatments suppress the body's immune system. This can increase the risk of infection, or increase the severity of common infections, like a cold or the flu. To decrease the risk of infection while going through cancer treatment:
Make Dietary Changes TOP
A healthful diet can help your body and mood. Your diet can provide fuel to help your body function at its best, and nutrition to help tissue heal and recover. Mood and overall energy will also be better with proper nutritional support.
Cancer itself and some cancer treatments can reduce your appetite. It becomes important to make the most of the calories that are eaten. A registered dietitian can help manage challenges that may be found with cancer or cancer treatments, and develop an effective meal plan.
Exercise Regularly TOP
If you have not been exercising regularly, check with your doctor to choose a safe exercise program. Exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment including:
You may consider consulting a personal trainer to help you set exercise goals and to safely follow through on initiating an exercise program. While adding exercise, be sure to balance rest and activities to prevent becoming too tired.
Manage Fatigue TOP
Fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of cancer and cancer treatments. To help avoid getting overtired, prioritize tasks and focus on the most important ones. It is important to allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. If needed, plan time throughout the day for rest.
If fatigue is affecting quality of life, talk to your doctor.
Seek Support TOP
The diagnosis of cancer is a life-defining event that can be difficult to handle. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about how you will feel during treatment, lifestyle changes, and worrying about the impact of both the diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming. It is important to rely on family, friends, and other people in your life. People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional balance. Other sources of support include:
Family and caregivers may also need support. Encourage them to seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.
Comfort Measures TOP
Melanoma found in advanced stages can be harder to treat. Some people choose treatments to ease cancer complications or choose to stop treatment completely. Depending on your circumstances, it may be realistic to begin end-of-life planning. Considerations may include:
If you need guidance, talk to a member of your healthcare team. You can be referred to a trained professional to guide you through the process.
Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115302/Melanoma. Updated January 10, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2017.
Rigel DS. Cutaneous ultraviolet exposure and its relationship to the development of skin cancer. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(5 Suppl 2):S129-S132.
Stay healthy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/healthy.html. Accessed March 16, 2017.
Sun protection. Skin Cancer Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed March 16, 2017.
Last reviewed March 2017 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 10/20/2016
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