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.

Identifying markers for optimal response
28 Jul 2017

Identifying markers for optimal response

Wouldn’t it be great if your doctor could know if you would respond to treatment before you even had it?

Global Melanoma Research Report - July
20 Jul 2017

Global Melanoma Research Report - July

In our latest research update we showcase research in survival estimates, uncover biomarkers, and reveal practice-changing research in surgery and medical oncology.

A day in the life of... Sarah Lane
14 Jul 2017

A day in the life of... Sarah Lane

Senior Clinical Trial Coordinators, like Sarah Lane, support melanoma patients throughout the clinical trial process. 

Differentiating moles from melanoma
14 Jul 2017

Differentiating moles from melanoma

Melanomas are often hard to differentiate from moles. But new technology is helping to improve accuracy of diagnosis.

Introducing SunSense Sunscreen
11 Jul 2017

Introducing SunSense Sunscreen

We are excited to announce that SunSense will proudly be an official supporter of Melanoma Institute Australia. SunSense is an Australian, family owned business. 

Identifying hidden melanoma
07 Jul 2017

Identifying hidden melanoma

New MIA research revealed dermoscopy features that can help detect desmoplastic melanoma.

60 Minutes' MIA Patient Feature Program
04 Jul 2017

60 Minutes' MIA Patient Feature Program

Five years ago Julie Randall was diagnosed with melanoma and was given months to live. The melanoma had spread throughout her body. The doctors said it was incurable and she’d be lucky if she survived the next nine months. Julie, a patient at Melanoma Institute Australia under Professor Georgina Long was placed on an experimental drug trial. To watch the entire program, visit 9now.com or click here

Training our future melanoma experts
22 Jun 2017

Training our future melanoma experts

Meet our latest Surgical Oncology Fellow, Eva Nagy, to find out more about life as a surgical oncologist, why she came to MIA and what she hopes to achieve.

Update from ASCO 2017
17 Jun 2017

Update from ASCO 2017

Melanoma research at ASCO this year focussed on the more precise use of current treatments to ensure optimal treatment for each patient.

Diagnosing melanoma of the mouth
16 Jun 2017

Diagnosing melanoma of the mouth

MIA recently demonstrated that reflectance confocal microscopy is a useful tool in the clinic to diagnose suspicious-looking lesions in the mouth.

New practice-changing research will reduce the need for major surgery in many melanoma patients
09 Jun 2017

New practice-changing research will reduce the need for major surgery in many melanoma patients

New research is likely to change the way melanoma is managed in many patients by reducing the need for major surgery and its associated morbidity and cost.

MIA researchers to share new findings at world's largest cancer conference
25 May 2017

MIA researchers to share new findings at world's largest cancer conference

Researchers from MIA will present their latest research findings to the world’s largest oncology conference in early June.

Australian researchers pioneer life-extending treatment for advanced melanoma patients with brain tumours
18 May 2017

Australian researchers pioneer life-extending treatment for advanced melanoma patients with brain tumours

Australian researchers are the first to demonstrate that patients with advanced melanoma which has spread to the brain can have increased life expectancy and possibly even beat the disease.

Melanoma March 2017 wraps up!
12 May 2017

Melanoma March 2017 wraps up!

Melanoma March 2017 - that's a wrap! Thank you to everyone that helped make it happen. 

Melanoma March 2017 helping kick start the Big Data for Melanoma national Research Project!
11 May 2017

Melanoma March 2017 helping kick start the Big Data for Melanoma national Research Project!

Thank you so much to all those who contributed in a variety of ways to Melanoma March 2017 in 17 different locations and more around the country! You have contributed to getting the Big Data for Melanoma national Research Project happening!

Whole genome sequencing finds unexpected genomic landscape in melanoma
10 May 2017

Whole genome sequencing finds unexpected genomic landscape in melanoma

By looking at the ‘dark matter’ of the genome, new research has found that genetic changes in acral and mucosal melanoma are completely different to mutations found in skin melanoma.

Shining a light on melanomas that aren't caused by the sun
04 May 2017

Shining a light on melanomas that aren't caused by the sun

‘Slip, slop, slap’ is synonymous with being Australian and playing it safe in the sun. These sun smart rules reduce our chances of getting melanoma of the skin. However, new research tells a different story for those affected by rarer forms of melanoma.

New research which more accurately predicts survival for melanoma patients
19 Apr 2017

New research which more accurately predicts survival for melanoma patients

Using MIA's patient database, researchers have developed conditional survival estimates for Stage III melanoma patients to more accurately predict survival outcomes.

Celebrating 60 years of melanoma research to save lives
19 Apr 2017

Celebrating 60 Years of melanoma research to save lives

MIA is proud to be celebrating an important milestone – the 60th anniversary of melanoma research and Australian-led global efforts to find a cure.

Celebrating our research achievements
07 Apr 2017

Celebrating our research achievements

Research achievements by MIA were celebrated at the annual Sydney Medical School recently.