Embarrassed About Skin Cancer?

Have you ever been embarrassed about skin cancer? Wait, hear me out. Maybe after I explain a bit more, you’ll get what I mean, but know this - skin cancer embarrassment is a real thing.

Cancer or just skin cancer?

We’ve all known someone who has or had cancer. The sympathy or empathy is well-intended and well-appreciated. But what about when you tell someone you have or have had skin cancer? Personally, I always feel a little strange about it. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to say I had cancer, even though we all know skin cancer can be deadly if not caught in time.

I feel like if I say I had cancer, without the skin preface, people will think I’m trying to garner sympathy that isn’t justified. In fact, when I fill out paperwork at the doctor, they almost always ask if you have a history of cancer. What do I put? If there is no place for me to elaborate, I’m almost afraid to write the word yes. Of course, some do differentiate, but others do not. I feel like if they don’t, and I answer yes, they’ll think I’m being dramatic when they ask me and I say it’s “just skin cancer.”

The embarrassment of it being my fault

Then there’s the feeling that I brought it on myself. Yes, I used to love to tan. Whether it was lying out in the backyard in Florida as a teen, or using a tanning bed as an adult, it made me feel that I looked better.

Now keep in mind that when I was a kid, we didn’t know about the risks like we do now. No one told me not to get tanned or, in some cases, burned. And the risks of using tanning beds are much more well-known now than they were years ago. Back then, there were only a few places, and it was a luxury. Now, you can find a variety of tanning salons in many places, and even some gyms have tanning beds.

The embarrassment at the doctor’s office

It’s not just embarrassment about what you say or do, it’s the embarrassment at the doctor’s office, too. Disrobing in front of your dermatologist for a full body check can be pretty uncomfortable. In fact, researchers have found that patient embarrassment is often a major barrier to regular skin cancer checks.1

The embarrassment is real

I admit it, saying I have had cancer is way more embarrassing than my scars. Admitting I tanned myself into having skin cancer is more painful than any surgery to remove the skin cancer. And yes, getting a full body screening is embarrassing too.

The point is that you don’t have to feel alone if you feel weird saying you’ve had cancer. Skin cancer IS cancer. You don’t have to beat yourself up over not knowing that tanning was hurting you. And hey, even if you did know, the important thing is to get checked and take care of any issues. Skin cancer embarrassment is real, but I know how you feel - and so do many others.

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