Awareness, Education, Action
As we drift through summer during these unprecedented times, I am still surprised by how much the general public doesn’t understand about skin cancer and its dangers. May was melanoma and skin cancer awareness month. Raising awareness is a crucial first step towards educating the public about the dangers of too much sun, and the consequences of skin cancer when left undetected and untreated.
Skin cancer is serious business
While awareness is important, frankly, it’s not enough. Two incidents earlier this summer highlighted for me the importance of driving home the message: Skin cancer is serious business.
The first involved a well-meaning neighbor who didn’t quite understand my stage IV melanoma diagnosis. This neighbor assumed, incorrectly, that the cancer in my lungs was from smoking. She was completely taken aback when I explained that cutaneous melanoma had spread (metastasized) from a primary site on my upper back to my lungs. Turning to her husband, a doctor, she asked, “It can do that?”
The other incident occurred during an online conversation with an old high school friend. We had recently reconnected and were catching-up. At some point, this former classmate asked about my cancer. He wrote, “I don’t remember you smoking in school.” Once again, I had to explain how melanoma migrated from my upper back to settle in my lungs.
Turning skin cancer awareness into education
What we need is education. Good old-fashioned education. Education that comes directly from the scientists, doctors, and national advocacy groups dedicated to skin cancer prevention and successful treatment options. You can find plenty of resources to help educate yourself and those around you, starting right here with SkinCancer.net.
Education, in my opinion, is key to forming good habits: starting with sun-protection and moving towards frequent skin checks (both at home and by a dermatologist). My grown children have developed those good habits. They formed those habits from being a part of my cancer journey.
I decided a few years ago to take action, and, as a result, I’ve become a voice for melanoma research and skin cancer prevention. As a writer, I’ve shared my journey story with several national publications and published op-ed pieces on the price disparity of certain cancer treatments. Most recently, I provided the patient perspective to a scientific panel reviewing research grants on melanoma prevention and treatment.
My advice is to start small and local. Utilize the resources available from those national advocacy groups (see links below to groups I work with). Several groups host local education and fundraising events (now virtually). Many provide both training and literature to help you become a grassroots advocate.
With so much uncertainty right now, there’s one thing everyone should know: Not protecting your skin can be deadly. Educate yourself and take action.
National Advocacy Groups
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?