Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have significantly improved the overall survival of patients with metastatic melanoma. It is unclear how the growing group of metastatic melanoma survivors resume their lives after treatment, and which needs they have regarding survivorship care (SSC). Objectives: To gain an in-depth understanding of metastatic melanoma survivors’ experiences of resuming life after ICIs and their associated SSC needs. Methods: A qualitative study was conducted among 20 patients with metastatic melanoma in whom ICIs had been discontinued after ongoing tumour response. One focus group (n = 9) was held, which was complemented by 11 individual interviews. Purposive sampling was used to select a variable sample in terms of sex, age, time since discontinuation of ICIs, and perceived impact of the disease. A topic guide was used to structure the (group) interviews, which were transcribed verbatim and analysed in a thematic content analysis, using several phases of coding. Results: In resuming life after ICIs, the prognosis switch often caused mixed feelings among patients, mainly because of the uncertainty about the future. Demands and expectations from self and others, persistent complaints and new problems in different life domains often make it challenging to proceed with life as it was prior to metastatic cancer. Patients indicated they needed to find a new balance, which included learning to cope with uncertainty and a changed perspective on life and close relationships. In terms of SSC needs, patients particularly stressed the need for more tailored patient information, available at one location. In addition, they emphasized the need to know who to turn to in case of questions and indicated the need for psychosocial support, also for their close relatives. Conclusions: Metastatic melanoma survivors face various challenges in resuming life after ICIs and are left with several unmet SSC needs. Efforts should be focused on offering psychosocial supportive care in addition to medical care, from diagnosis onwards, taking into account the patient’s close relatives. A single point of contact and personalized survivorship care plan (SCP) could be of added value in guiding them through the patient journey, which is, given its multidisciplinary nature, particularly important in melanoma care. What is already known about this topic? Since the introduction of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) the overall survival of patients with metastatic melanoma has improved significantly, leading to a growing group of melanoma survivors. Melanoma survivors may face various problems and challenges in resuming life after treatment, which may be associated with unmet survivorship care (SSC) needs. An in-depth understanding of their experiences with resuming life and the associated SSC needs is currently lacking. What does this study add? Metastatic melanoma survivors experience various challenges after immunotherapy, from the uncertain prognosis switch to the struggle of finding a new balance in life. Besides negative aspects, such as complaints in different life domains, the patient journey is often accompanied by positive outcomes, for example a changed perspective on life. They stress the need for tailored patient information and broader supportive care, also for their close relatives. What are the clinical implications of this work? In addition to medical care, efforts should be focused on offering psychosocial supportive care, including return-to-work issues, from diagnosis onwards, ideally taking into account the patient’s close relatives. To guide them through the patient journey, a single point of contact and a personalized survivorship care plan (SCP) could be of added value. The latter is particularly important in melanoma care, given its multidisciplinary nature.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Novartis and Pierre Fabre. The sponsors were not involved in the design of the study, data collection, data analysis, manuscript preparation or publication decisions.
© 2022 The Authors. British Journal of Dermatology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Association of Dermatologists.