The Different Skin Cancer Journeys: 2020 In America Survey Results
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the world - at least one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they are 70 years old. This was our 4th annual Skin Cancer In America survey where we aim to learn more about living with skin cancer and how it impacts daily life. Skin cancer experiences can vary significantly through detection, diagnosis/severity, treatment, and recurrence. To better understand how skin cancer affects physical and mental health, quality of life, and relationships, we asked more than 1,000 people to share their skin cancer journey.
Detection: The first stop on the skin cancer journey
Detection is the first, but a very crucial, stop in a skin cancer journey. Skin checks, whether it’s a self-exam or completed by a healthcare professional, are the main detection methods. The majority of our survey respondents noticed their own skin cancers, and 24% said their doctor or dermatologist detected their skin cancer. Friends, family members, and hairdressers are other ways skin cancer was detected (Q9). 95% of people diagnosed with melanoma were experiencing visible symptoms (Q16).
If you have fair skin, have not used sunscreen while in the sun, or have skin that easily sunburns, skin checks are even more important! Our respondents noted these as the top 3 risk factors that contributed to their skin cancer (Q40).
Diagnosis: The words “you have skin cancer”
Skin cancer can happen at any age and in different forms, but no matter what, it’s always life-altering to hear those words. Depending on the exact diagnosis, the type of treatment, recovery, quality of life, and recurrence risk vary significantly. 64% of our respondents were diagnosed with BCC, 51% with SCC, 43% with melanoma, and 12% with other types of skin cancer (Q6). About 75% of our respondents were diagnosed by their dermatologist (Q41).
The stage or severity of a diagnosis can also alter the skin cancer journey significantly. Metastatic melanoma, when melanoma spreads to other parts of the body, is statistically much more life-threatening and requires intense oncology treatment like immunotherapy. 17% of melanoma patients responded that they were initially diagnosed at stage III or IV (Q11).
Treatment: The forced pitstop on the journey
Skin cancer treatments can vary significantly depending on the diagnosis and personal situation and preferences. And each treatment comes with its own set of challenges. In our community we’ve heard about the intense post-care that Mohs requires, the irritation and isolation of topical chemotherapy like Efudex, and the hopeful life-saving journeys of immunotherapy. Responses in the survey showed the vast majority of people did not seek a second opinion for their skin cancer treatment (Q44).
While respondents with melanoma, BCC, and SCC underwent some type of surgical procedure 98-99% of the time, the experience with specific surgery type and topical medication varies. Confidence that their skin cancer is controlled on their current treatment plan also varies, with 69% of melanoma patients, 54% of BCC patients and 49% of SCC patients, feeling confident.
Quality of life: The intersection of life and skin cancer
While skin cancer may not greatly impact every day grooming and household tasks, it does have a big impact on mental and emotional health. And no matter what type of skin cancer responders noted, sun safety and prevention is now their top concern. A skin cancer diagnosis also typically impacts the way you spend time outside.
It also causes anxiety and worry thinking about family members, and their risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is not “just” cancer. Many people with skin cancer require emotional support to deal with their diagnosis, treatment, or coping even after they are NED. Nearly a quarter of survey respondents say they need emotional support (Q48).
Recurrence: The reason it’s a life-long journey
If someone with skin cancer isn’t dealing with recurrence, they’re likely thinking about it. Recurrence anxiety has been a big topic in our community. Almost 60% of survey respondents say they think about recurrence a few times a month or more often (Q47). And only 45% of respondents noted they’re NED from all forms of skin cancer, meaning the majority of people are still living with some form of it (Q37).
Skin checks and monitoring are important in preventing and detecting skin cancer recurrence. 31% of respondents have a professional skin check every 3-5 months and 42% of respondents have one every 6 months (Q46).
How do you feel about being called a skin cancer survivor?