Lifestyle Changes to Manage Melanoma
If melanoma is in advanced stages and you are using a combination of treatments, lifestyle changes can help:
- Strengthen your body so that you can withstand some of the rigors of treatment.
- Optimize the function of your immune system to aid in the fight against cancer.
- Improve your emotional outlook, so you can enjoy life to the fullest.
- Avoid other medical problems that could complicate your health.
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
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:
- Covering your skin with clothing, including a shirt and a hat with a broad brim.
- Sitting in shaded areas.
- Avoiding sunlight during peak times, usually between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. depending on your location.
- Using sunscreens with sun protection factor (SPF) on skin that will be exposed to the sun. Ask your doctor what SPF level you should look for.
- Wearing sunglasses that block 99% or 100% of UVA and UVB rays to protect your eyes.
- Avoiding sun lamps and tanning booths.
Reduce Your Risk of Infection
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:
- Wash hands thoroughly and often. Hand washing is the most effective method of decreasing the chance of catching colds and flu. Carry hand sanitizer for times when washing is not convenient.
- Try to avoid crowds, especially during cold and flu season.
- Avoid touching eyes, mouth, and nose to after coming in contact with surfaces or objects.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects often.
- Ask your doctor about immunization against the flu and pneumonia.
Make Dietary Changes
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.
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:
- Promoting overall fitness
- Boosting your energy level
- Improving your immune system
- Boosting your spirits and improving your emotional outlook
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.
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.
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:
- Religious community
- Support groups for people with your type of cancer
- Professional support from social workers, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists who are trained to help support cancer patients and their families
Family and caregivers may also need support. Encourage them to seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.
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:
- Choosing home or hospice care
- Financial decisions
- Advance directives—includes legal issues, like wills, hospital orders for your care, and power of attorney for medical care and finances
- Insurance coverage
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: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection. Accessed March 16, 2017.