Melanoma under 40
By Carole Renouf
17 November 2016
I spent a morning in clinic with one of MIA’s surgeons about a month ago. As each of her patients arrived, she inquired whether they would mind the CEO sitting in on their appointment because the CEO wanted to learn more about the experience of patients. Every single patient consented to having me present. They ranged from old to young, male to female, early to advanced melanoma and it was very moving for me to spend some time with them as they received everything from the worst news to the best. All the people with melanoma I met that day have stayed with me, but none more so than the young ones (under 40). It was the statistic that melanoma is the most common cancer in 15-39 year old Australians that really persuaded me to take this job.
A few years ago, when I was in a previous role, one of my proudest initiatives was the work we did reaching out to young women, those who got breast cancer in their 20s and 30s.
The impact of cancer on young lives is ferocious and wide-ranging. This is not to diminish in any way its significant impact on older lives, but when you are under 40 the experience of cancer tends to take more away across more aspects of your life and over a longer time. Also, as cancer services tend to be geared towards older people, you are likely to find less help and support suited to your needs and life stage.
The qualitative research that was done into breast cancer in young women revealed that the disease, diagnosis and treatment impacted issues as critical as future employment and career, finances, fertility, relationships and sexuality and self-image. If you would like to see footage from the press conference with affected young women, click here.
To my knowledge, no such research has yet been done in melanoma in Australia. Melanoma is the most common cause of cancer death in 20-39 year olds. In contrast to breast cancer, melanoma strikes both men and women (slightly more men) and therefore must assuredly involve additional issues to breast cancer. Yet, there is no body of evidence as to what these are, nor how to address them.
As we head towards 2017, I have set myself the goal of gathering the evidence from young Australians affected by melanoma of its impact on their lives and of any unmet needs they may have. This may mean a shift in the way we and others provide services.
For example, over 90% of melanoma – if caught early – is curable through surgery, so surgery remains a dominant treatment modality. A famous surgeon once said, “If you can’t cut it out, it’s not real” - yet studies show that psychosocial distress is very real in at least 30% of melanoma patients and I suspect even more real in the young. So is there an unmet need for more psychosocial support for under 40s affected by melanoma, for example?
If you’d like to share your experience and help me gather the evidence about the impact of melanoma on young Australians, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a personal interview. Your contribution would be greatly appreciated.
A Ninja Warrior legend and Olympic gymnast, Olivia knows first hand the devastating impact of melanoma.
All Australians are urged to join the fight against melanoma this summer.
The ground-breaking work of MIA's Co-Medical Director Prof Richard Scolyer has been recognised with NSW’s highest accolade for cancer research.
A landmark study led by MIA's Dr Willmott is making a difference to melanoma treatment around the globe.
The highly anticipated annual list is the “who’s who” of the scientific elite from across the globe.
The uniquely Aussie awareness campaign ‘Game On Mole’ is back for its second year – with a new look but same important message.
Professor Richard Scolyer receives The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Distinguished Fellow Award.
Professor Long cites as a highlight of her 2-year Presidency, the phenomenal research output by SMR members who have continued to lead the cancer field despite the impact of COVID-19.
Join in the fun of the virtual event, and together we can run over melanoma!
Melanoma Institute Australia features prominently in the latest ‘Expertise in Melanoma’ world rankings, released by Expertscape.
Participate in our online survey and help us understand the support needs of melanoma patients and carers.
Clinicians and their patients now have access to three online risk calculators developed by researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia.
MIA's Co-Medical Director Professor Richard Scolyer has received The University of Sydney Alumni Award for International Achievement.
More than 120 MIA clinicians, researchers and staff came together online to share research highlights.
For the 2nd consecutive year, MIA's Co-Medical Director Professor Richard Scolyer has been selected in the top 100 best, brightest, and most powerful advocates of pathology by The Pathologist.
As of Monday 27th July all patients and carers/family members coming into The Poche Centre will be required to bring their own mask.
In a recent issue of Cancer Cell journal, Prof Georgina Long AO and Prof Richard Scolyer discuss the challenge of bringing together clinical work and scientific research to underpin successful cancer research.
Clinicians around the world now have access to a new online calculator that predicts the risk that a patient’s primary melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Professor Long has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia (General Division) for distinguished service to medicine, particularly, to melanoma clinical and translational research, and to professional medical societies.