Background Follow-up of melanoma patients has been a continuing issue for discussion in the past years partly due to ever increasing incidence of this disease, as well as the lack of agreement regarding the reasons for, and the frequency of follow-up. Patients’ perspectives are often not included in this continuing discussion on follow-up of melanoma patients.
Objective To examine to what extent follow-up was experienced, according to the guideline of 2005, by physicians and melanoma patients in a Dutch population from the south-east area of the Netherlands. The patient’s perspective and satisfaction over said follow-up shall also be taken into account.
Methods Follow-up among melanoma survivors was investigated and compared with the recommendations of the current Dutch national guideline. All 699 melanoma patients registered at the Eindhoven Cancer Registry (between 1998 and 2008), and treated in 3 regional hospitals, were contacted via postal mail. The survey questioned about treatment, symptoms, impact on daily life and follow-up. Patients with multiple melanomas (n = 16) were excluded.
Results Response rate was 80%, 418 patients were still under surveillance for their melanoma. The average time since diagnoses was 4 years, 71% had stage I melanoma. Almost 80% of patients with a Breslow thickness <1 mm, reported more frequent follow-up visits than the guideline recommends. Only 5% of the patients wanted to reduce their follow-up frequency. Eighty percent of patients were under supervision of a dermatologist: physical examination (25%), lymph node palpation (11%) and/or scar inspection (20%) did not regularly occur. These proportions were significantly higher among other specialism.
Conclusion Follow-up frequency was higher than recommended by the current melanoma guideline in a large group of patients, mainly those with lower Breslow thickness.