Diagnosed With Skin Cancer...Now What?

Last updated: January 2023

You’ve done the right thing by making an appointment to have your doctor look at a suspicious place on your skin, after too long of brushing it off as “probably nothing.” When you go to the appointment, you’re still certain it is nothing to be concerned about and are only getting it checked out to make your husband/wife/mom/dad/friend happy and to get them to stop nagging you. Since it’s just a small area, your doctor removes the suspicious lesion and said he will have it biopsied and call you with the result. Whew! It’s over, and since you’re off work the rest of the day, an afternoon lying by the pool sounds nice. You really want to work on your tan; you don’t yet have the deep dark tan you typically have during the summer.

How is this possible?

Fast forward a few days. You receive a call from your doctor’s office that the area is skin cancer. Wait, what? You can’t have skin cancer. You tan easily. You don’t have the typical risk factors of light hair, light skin, blue eyes, freckles. Heck, you don’t have a single freckle! But you do have skin cancer. Now what?

Don't brush it off

First and foremost, please don’t brush it off as “just skin cancer.” Don’t think of it as something you get treated then go back to your old ways of tanning beds and lying out in the sun for hours on end. You have skin cancer now, and you could have additional areas of skin cancer in the future. I’ve had skin cancer for over twenty years; unfortunately, mine wasn’t a one-and-done. There are several things to remember if you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer: if you are using a tanning bed, please stop. If you are going to be out in the sun, wear sunscreen and be smart about your sun habits. Make sure you do regular skin checks. You are the one who knows your skin best. If you see anything out of the ordinary on your skin that doesn’t go away, make an appointment to have it examined. Cancerous spots can take on many different appearances; they don’t all look the same. I’ve had dry patchy areas on my skin that wouldn’t clear up, areas that look like an abrasion that will bleed, scab over, then continue the process, and small red bumps that look like pimples but will not go away. Don’t become paranoid about every new spot, but do be proactive in keeping an eye on your skin, as early detection and treatment are best.

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