It's Okay to Say No
If you’ve received a diagnosis of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, you know how important it is to be diligent about sun awareness and monitoring your skin. (I’m only discussing those types of skin cancer in this post, since those are the types with which I’ve had experience.) It’s also important, though, for you to remember that YOU are your own best advocate.
Research your treatment options
If you have complete faith in your doctor and agree with his/her recommendations, that’s wonderful. However, keep in mind that there may be a treatment your doctor recommends that you’re not quite on board with. If that happens, remember that it is okay to say no. It’s also okay to say that you want to think about the recommendation for awhile, and in the meantime do your research on it.
Speak up when talking to your doctor
And it’s also perfectly acceptable for you to ask your doctor for an alternative treatment method. I’ve had personal experience with this, actually more than a few times. The first doctor I ever saw for treatment of skin cancer wanted to do radiation on the area, which was directly under my eye. Even though I had just received the diagnosis of skin cancer and was in a bit in shock from that as it was unexpected, I knew that the idea of having radiation so close to my eye wasn’t sitting well with me and I told the dermatologist that I’d get back with him. I then got a second opinion, this time with a plastic surgeon, who said he did not recommend doing radiation in that area and although it was kind of a tricky area to do surgery on, he recommended surgery. I felt completely comfortable with his recommendation, and he did an incredible job on the surgery.
Communicate your history and current needs
More recently, I had a new-to-me dermatologist tell me on my very first visit with her that she wanted to do a biopsy on my nose and also send me to another doctor to perform Moh’s surgery on me. This was a mere eight weeks after a significant skin cancer surgery, and I was still in the healing process. During that appointment, I had explained to her the extent of my surgery, but I got the feeling she wasn’t really listening to me. I told her that I would not be having a biopsy done on a surgical wound that hadn’t even yet fully healed, and I would not be scheduling another surgery unless my surgeon thought there was a reason to. My surgeon then called her later that day and told her there was absolutely no reason for me to have a biopsy or a surgery and that what she saw was the normal healing process.
It's okay advocate for yourself
During my next checkup with that dermatologist, she told me she hadn’t realized the extent of my surgery when she had recommended additional surgery, which confirmed my suspicions that she wasn’t listening to me. She also recommended during that appointment that I schedule either an Efudex or blue light therapy treatment to “get ahead” of any areas on my skin that may need treatment. I told her that I had researched both of these procedures but didn’t feel that either one of them were good options for me. She told me they were ‘no big deal’ and were easier than having surgery. I already knew that Efudex was not at all ‘no big deal’ as I’d read stories about patients’ experiences when using it. Some did okay with it, but some did not. And, some who use Efudex have to use it yearly. Knowing that I don’t have yearly surgery, I was completely comfortable in declining those treatment options. Shortly thereafter, I found a new dermatologist who was open to alternative treatment options instead of just Efudex/blue light-or-nothing.
Bottom line....educate yourself on what your doctor recommends, and if you’re both in agreement, that’s awesome. But if you’re not in agreement, don’t be afraid to speak up. A good doctor will listen to you and work with you on finding the best treatment option for you, which is extremely important in your battle with skin cancer.
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?