Melanoma under 40

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 projectyoung@melanoma.org.au for a personal interview. Your contribution would be greatly appreciated.

14 Melanoma Marches down, 7 to go!
19 Mar 2018

14 Melanoma Marches down, 7 to go!

It was a massive weekend of Melanoma Marches with six Marches in: Bendigo, Canberra, Manly, Newcastle, Bunbury and Adelaide.

Melanoma March keeps marching
14 Mar 2018

Melanoma March keeps marching

Weekend two hit the ground marching with Melanoma Marches in Wollongong, Townsville, Mandurah and Western Sydney.

Melanoma March kicks off for 2018
08 Mar 2018

Melanoma March kicks off for 2018

Melanoma Institute Australia's annual fundraising initiative is all systems go!

Calls for urgent crackdown on illegal backyard solariums
07 Mar 2018

Calls for urgent crackdown on illegal backyard solariums

The reported proliferation of illegal commercial solariums is costing lives and requires urgent government intervention.

15-year-old melanoma survivor Toby Rayner will lead Mount Gambier's march against melanoma
28 Feb 2018

15-year-old melanoma survivor Toby Rayner will lead Mount Gambier's march against melanoma

15-year-old melanoma survivor Toby Rayner will lead Mount Gambier’s march against melanoma Julie-Ann Sams knows all too well that melanoma doesn’t discriminate. 

Excision margins for melanoma redefined
21 Feb 2018

Excision margins for melanoma redefined

Updated guidelines defining appropriate excision margins have been published thanks to research from MIA. 

A Pawsome Story of Hope
21 Feb 2018

A Pawsome Story of Hope

Joanne and her trusty companion Frankie spend their days spreading a message of hope in hospitals, nursing homes, even prisons. It is a long way from her darkest hour facing palliative care. This is her story of hope.

A new generation of melanoma researchers
15 Feb 2018

A new generation of melanoma researchers

Melanoma impacts more Australian teenagers and young adults than any other cancer. Dr James Wilmott, who has a young family of his own, has devoted his career to determining why these young Australians are susceptible to melanoma, and importantly, how to save them.

Melanoma Masterclass celebrates Australian luminaries who have transformed melanoma treatment worldwide
13 Feb 2018

Melanoma Masterclass celebrates Australian luminaries who have transformed melanoma treatment worldwide

The extraordinary contribution of Australia’s most distinguished melanoma clinicians and researchers is being celebrated today.

Prestigious award in pathology for Professor Scolyer
09 Feb 2018

Prestigious award in pathology for Professor Scolyer

Congratulations to Professor Richard Scolyer who was awarded the William O. Russell/Joanne Vandenberge Hill Award of Excellence in Pathology.

A Day in the Life Of... Serigne Lo
09 Feb 2018

A Day in the Life Of... Serigne Lo

A Day in the Life Of... Serigne Lo, Research and BioStatistics Manager at Melanoma Institute Australia

Jay inspires others to help end melanoma and so can you
07 Feb 2018

Jay inspires others to help end melanoma and so can you

Jay was your typical Aussie bloke – a truck driver, husband, dad and mate to many. Then he got melanoma. His cancer diagnosis turned his life upside down.

A dilemma no mother-to-be should face
31 Jan 2018

A dilemma no mother-to-be should face

Clair faced an impossible choice – risk delivering her baby early, or delay potentially life-saving melanoma treatment

Join little Madi and Bettina in the fight against melanoma
25 Jan 2018

Join little Madi and Bettina in the fight against melanoma

Little Madi misses her Dad. But she is determined to honour his memory and support life-saving melanoma research.

Toyota and country music fans invited to tip their hat to help tackle Australia's national cancer – melanoma
19 Jan 2018

Toyota and country music fans invited to tip their hat to help tackle Australia's national cancer – melanoma

Melanoma Institute Australia has teamed up with the Toyota Country Music Festival 2018 in Tamworth!

Sun Protection: Facts and Controversies
18 Jan 2018

Sun Protection: Facts and Controversies

MIA's dermatologist shares her knowledge with GPs on debunking myths and controversies on sunscreen.

Shannan Ponton joins our March for a cure
17 Jan 2018

Shannan Ponton joins our March for a cure

Shannan Ponton thought he was invincible – he wasn’t. But his melanoma battle ended up saving more than his own life. 

Surprising finding in rare form of melanoma get patients closer to personalised medicine
11 Jan 2018

Surprising finding in rare form of melanoma get patients closer to personalised medicine

Researchers have demonstrated that immunotherapy is highly effective in treating a rare form of melanoma – a result that is surprising due to the nature of the tumour.  

Using new technology to prevent melanoma
14 Dec 2017

Using new technology to prevent melanoma

Innovation is helping to prevent melanoma developing in the first place.

Research review of 2017
12 Dec 2017

Research review of 2017

Research from MIA is changing the way melanoma is managed worldwide and improving patient survival. Here are a few of our key highlights from this year.