Patients and healthcare providers are most likely to detect recurrence of early-stage melanoma based on symptom reports rather than routine imaging tests, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Researchers analyzed data from 1996–2015 from 581 patients with stage 2 melanoma and at least one year of follow-up. Cancer recurred in 171 (29.4%) of the patients; 40% of those recurrences were spotted by healthcare providers based on reported symptoms (e.g., seizures, coughing up blood) or by feeling suspicious changes on the skin. Additionally, the researchers found that providers discovered 30% of recurrences during scheduled exams compared to 26% with surveillance imaging.

The researchers concluded that patients and providers need to be vigilant for symptoms of recurrence. Oncology nurses should educate patients about what to look for and which symptoms are cause for concern.