Feedback from the Community: Recurrences of Skin Cancer

If you have been treated for skin cancer, you may think about the possibility of your cancer returning- known as skin cancer recurrence. While recurrence does not affect every patient, between 5% to 10% of melanoma patients and 30% to 50% of non-melanoma patients will experience skin cancer recurrence during their lifetime.1 According to some patients, recurrence makes them feel like they are constantly “watching and waiting“, especially when waiting for test results or scheduling another biopsy. To learn more about the long-term impacts of skin cancer, including the emotions of thinking about future cancers, we asked our community members, “Have you had a recurrence since your first diagnosis”?

One recurrence

“First wide excision in 2002 at 35….second melanoma occurred this year at 50.”

“I had my first melanoma in 2005 and just had my second.”

“Yes, within one year.”

“Stage 3 November 2014. NED for 3 years…mass this August.”

“Yup. First 2004, second 2006.”

“Both melanoma in situ, the second was diagnosed 5 years after first. Grrrrrr!”

Skin cancer recurrence can occur with any form of skin cancer, and at any time. While some of our skin cancer community members experienced recurrence within one year of their initial diagnosis, others did not have recurrence until several years later. For many patients, it can be difficult to constantly be thinking about recurrence, especially while managing family and work responsibilities. To manage these fears, many community members take steps to address their recurrence concerns, such as connecting with support groups, finding mental health resources, and managing stress with complementary or alternative medicine. If you are concerned about recurrence, you can also talk to your healthcare provider about ways to protect and monitor your skin (such as frequent self-skin checks, regular skin exams, and avoiding UV exposure).

Multiple recurrences

“My first melanoma was in 2002 when I was 24. I’m 39 and have had six melanomas total now.”

“2006: Stage 3. 2010: Stage 4. 2014: Stage 4.”

“Melanoma. Back, intestines, breast, lungs & now it’s in my brain.”

“Every year for past 4 years… it’s been a tough road.”

“I was diagnosed with my first melanoma in 2007. Two more since then, all 3 were in situ. Very thankful they were caught early.”

According to some of our community members, recurrence has become all too familiar. While patients can experience a second, unrelated skin cancer (known as a new primary cancer), some of our community members have experienced several recurrent skin cancers related to their initial diagnosis. As described by these community members, it can be difficult to deal with multiple recurrences, especially the frequent tests and procedures, as well as the possibility of new scars. After a skin cancer recurrence, patients and their healthcare providers will work together to develop a new treatment plan, and while many skin cancers can be effectively treated, it can be challenging to feel like your skin cancer is never “cured”. To manage multiple recurrences, some patients turn to family and friends, while others turn to the skin cancer community; for many of you, these resources give you much needed advice and support, especially when dealing with another recurrence.

No, but I am always watching!

“My first was in 1992, a stage III accidentally found at a doctor’s appointment… So every six months I get the “butt naked” exam and have been very grateful for them keeping me alive! I always have one to cut or scrape off!!”

“NED, for now…”

“First biopsy June 25, 2015 (two removed) …I have had 11 total biopsies since that day with no further melanoma found!!!”

“No recurrence, but I am watchful.”

“I had it removed with a wide excision and sentinel lymph node removal… I am following up with derm/once every three months to monitor.”

For many of community members, you have been fortunate enough to never experience a recurrence. However, according to many of you, staying NED (No Evidence of Disease) often requires regular biopsies of suspicious moles, as well as a general sense of caution and care when checking your skin. For many of you, reporting suspicious areas to your healthcare provider has led to the early detection of precancerous spots, while for others, regular skin exams just give you peace of mind.

As described by our community members, experiences with skin cancer recurrence can vary greatly from person to person. While some of you have never experienced recurrence, others continue to battle new recurrences each year. For any skin cancer patient, recurrence could be a concern, but the online skin cancer community is always here to support you!

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