Coping with advanced melanoma

Advanced melanoma is melanoma that has spread from the where it started to other parts of the body. Sometimes melanoma is advanced when it is first diagnosed. Or it has come back and spread after treatment for the original melanoma.

Treatment can keep advanced melanoma under control, relieve symptoms and give you a good quality of life. Your doctors and nurses will help you to make the most of life and feel as good as possible for as long as possible.

How you might feel

Finding out you have advanced melanoma can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious and not be able to think about anything else.

Treatments are available that can shrink the melanoma or stop it growing. It might be possible to control it for quite a while. You will need to talk very carefully to your own specialist to understand:

  • what your diagnosis means
  • what’s likely to happen
  • what treatments are available
  • how treatment can help you

Although you have advanced cancer, it might be months or sometimes years before doctors can no longer control the melanoma.

Some people are diagnosed with melanoma when it is too far advanced for treatment to be able to control the cancer.  If this happens then your doctor will still be able to do things to help control any symptoms you may have. 

There is lots of information and support available to you and your family and friends. Some days you might want lots of information and on others it might be too much for you. It can help to find out more about your cancer and the different treatments you can have. Many people find that knowing more about their situation can make it easier to cope. 

Talking about advanced cancer

Your friends and relatives might be able to support you and talk to you about your cancer. Sharing can help to increase trust and support between you and make it easier to plan ahead. But some families are scared of the emotions this could bring up. So they may not want to discuss it. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. You can help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to discuss what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

Counselling might help you find ways of coping with your feelings and emotions. You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.


Thinking about your priorities and planning what you want to do can help you to feel more in control. You might want to talk about how you want to spend your time and what is and isn’t important to you.

Some of your future plans might no longer be realistic. But you might get round to doing something you always wanted to do but weren’t able to make time for.

Physical changes

Advanced melanoma is likely to cause physical changes in your body. Community cancer nurses or symptom control nurses can help to support you at home.

The symptoms you have depend on where the melanoma is in your body.

You might feel very tired and lacking in energy a lot of the time.

Emotional and physical changes can affect your relationships and sex life.

Feeling as well as you can

It is important that you feel as well as you possibly can. Tell your doctor or nurse about any symptoms you have so they can help to control them.

Coping financially

You might have extra expenses due to the cancer. Your specialist nurse or GP can help you get grants for heating costs, holidays or household expenses related to your illness.

Ask to see a social worker. They can let you know which benefits or grants you can claim and help with the claiming process.  

Who can help?

You can get emotional and practical support through your hospital, local hospice and GP practice. You can also get help from charities and support groups.

Towards the end of life

It’s natural to want to find out what is likely to happen in the last few weeks or days of life.

You might need to choose where you want to be looked after and who you want to care for you.

You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses if you have questions or want to talk about coping with advanced cancer. Call free on 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
01 May 2020
Next review due: 
02 May 2023
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