Even when a melanoma has been removed and is considered cured follow-up exams are necessary to see if the cancer has come back. There may be abnormalities on the skin that should be checked by a physician or new symptoms to report such as pain, cough, tiredness or weight loss. Regular doctor visits are required to check for lymph node swelling and to perform a general physical exam. Sometimes, blood tests and imaging exams may be done to check for recurrence.
Before PET/CT imaging, because of the disseminated metastatic disease, it was very difficult to monitor recurrence to see if the melanoma had returned. Multiple CT scans would have to be done to capture images of the whole body. Delay in finding recurrence could result in a delay of further surgical removal.
PET/CT can also be used to image tumor response to therapy and to detect recurrence in successfully treated lesions. For postsurgery and other treatments, PET is extremely important for monitoring if the cancer cells have returned and if new treatments should be started.
Follow-up tests and PET/CT imaging are important for early detection of any recurrent disease.