Melanoma Part 4 – Immunotherapy

I had my meeting with the medical oncologist, another doctor that I was very impressed by. She took a good hour and a half talking to me about melanoma and immunotherapy treatment and how it works. She covered all the bases, talking to me a lot about the different side effects of the medicine. After that appointment I was back to waiting for everything to be approved by insurance…it’s all a waiting game I tell you!

So what is immunotherapy? I have had so many people asking what the difference is between that and chemotherapy. Obviously I am not a doctor and I’m sure I will give you some wrong info, but here is how I understand it.

Immunotherapy changes cells in the immune system to recognize the melanoma cells, so your body’s immune system is actually fighting the cancer, risks would involve the body attacking healthy cells as well. Chemotherapy attacks cells that multiply rapidly, I don’t really know the risks, I know there’s a lot, and I’m glad I don’t have to know at this point!

All of my doctors say immunotherapy has been a game changer for patients with melanoma. It was FDA approved in 2017, I feel blessed that it is an option for me. I’m super thankful for people who underwent clinical trials so that it would be possible for me now. This diagnosis would have been so much worse even just a few years ago. I know I am extremely lucky to have modern medicine available to me.

So my regimen from here will be an appointment with the medical oncologist and transfusions every 4 weeks for the next year. If they feel like my body would handle a half dose better they will move me to transfusions every 2 weeks. I have full body scans and ultrasounds of the lymph nodes every 3 months. Brain MRI every 6 months. Dermatologist appointments every 3 months. My oncology team told me they are now my family care doctors, they will monitor every symptom I have and determine if it is a side effect of immunotherapy, or the cancer before anything else.

Here’s a video that explains immunotherapy for those of you that would like a better explanation!

Kate Blom