Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Man in the spotlight on a podium giving a speech while another man sits lower down behind him looking dejected and ignored

It’s Only Skin Cancer

I recently read a post where some members of our community felt the sting of having others minimize their skin cancer experience because they did not go through chemotherapy. Some related that coworkers, friends or family have made comments that they should be happy with “only” having skin cancer. This makes my blood burn a tad.

Second class cancer survivors?

I recall the early days of my journey being at a local bike-a-thon for cancer research and having the emcee over the loudspeaker call out for cancer survivors to come to the podium to share their stories. He added the proviso that he didn’t need skin cancer “patients” to join him. The implication seemed to be that skin cancer was not in the class as other forms of cancer and maybe not as noteworthy or as important. I was miffed, but not surprised. He probably was just not very well informed and felt the pressure of having what he considered more provocative testimonials. We know that he was wrong. Skin cancer survivors are courageous and have great stories to share. More importantly, they can share advice that saves lives and this is the point of the story.

It’s about the message

For me, it’s not about being deemed worthy of praise, admiration, or affirmation (although who doesn’t like that?) because I had Melanoma. Being considered a legitimate cancer survivor is important because it gives weight to my message about skin protection. The more people respect my story, the more they will listen to my message about the dangers of UV rays. The more people understand about skin cancer, hopefully the more they will change their behaviors. In the end, it’s not about someone showing me empathy for my pain, but listening to my tale that can help them from feeling their own.

Dealing with the naysayers

Here is how I deal with the naysayers:

  1. I show them my scars (enough said).
  2. I explain the latest research (This means that I have done my homework).
  3. I show sensitivity to whatever issues that they may be facing (The old adage applies here, “They don’t care about how much you know until they know that you care.”)
  4. I realize that they (or someone they know) may have had other forms of cancer that they deem more serious and has affected their thinking.
  5. I realize that their experience has taught them to think less of skin cancer. This may be possible because it was easily and effectively treated without apparent further consequences.
  6. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away because the wrong message may come across in anger and when emotions run hot. Pick your battles and find another time to share your message, if possible.

Skin cancer is not a joke

Skin Cancer is legit. It harms people. Some die from it. It’s not a joke and it’s not “less”. It may not seem as serious as other forms of this horrible disease, but it’s no less deadly in many cases. The most important thing is that it is both preventable (in many cases) and treatable, if caught early. It is a cancer that we have some say in. So, let’s not treat survivors like they are in some way, less important or valued. Their message can save lives.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • tammyeyster
    3 weeks ago

    I had 4 new spots taken off 2 weeks ago. I found 2 new ones starting today. Get my results Friday. Prayers for you. Stay strong.

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Thank you for sharing. Hoping for good news. Scott (skincancer.net moderator)

  • ItsJustMe
    3 weeks ago

    I just had 4 pre-cancerous spots removed today. Last year I had Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Situ on my left forearm. I had that surgically removed. I understand what people are saying in this thread because after all, its “just a small thing isn’t it”. I left the doctors office with my stomach in knots. I will return in February to see if there is a need to biopsy or not. I cannot explain why my stomach is in knots. I have only had these spots maybe 4-6 weeks and got them taken care of. It is honestly stressful thinking of the “what if’s”. For just today, at this moment, I am so grateful it’s not diagnosed cancer again.

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Thank you for reading my article and sharing your thoughts. Keep us updated. Scott (skincancer.net moderator)

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    8 months ago

    Exactly, it’s a very real disease with very real consequences to very real
    people. We can do a great service as we educate others. Scott (skincancer.net moderator)

  • dhowell
    6 months ago

    It scares the hell out of me. In 2012 my mom died of stage 4 breast cancer, by then I had already had mohs surgery on my face and numerous lesions removed. I felt like my skin cancer wasn’t anything compared to breast cancer or any of the other cancers. I’ve had friends did from cancer. I just kept having the surgeries and another mohs on my lip. It got real and I realized, although my type of cancer was less life threatening, it is still cancer and could possible take me out and it should never be thought of “its just skin cancer”. Like you said it is very real. The whole process we have to go through is painful. I’ve got mohs coming up in a week this time on my scalp. Not looking forward to this at all. I’m tired of the surgeries, my body is tired, it tries to spit out the inside sutures. Nope I’m not having fun at all. And no one I know, knows how I feel. I’m scared, I’m tired and I’m alone.

  • dhowell
    4 months ago

    I have to add to this. My mhos on my scalp went great. No problems except headaches and sinus pain for several days. Don’t really know for sure if the surgery caused it.
    I have lived with fear the skin cancer would metastasize and grow in a organ. I have had so much skin cancer removed my sister calls me “Frankenstein’s wife”. Not meant to be mean or anything. She is aware of it all but unaware of what I really live with and feel. I have been afraid it would happen to me. I just found out my dad, who is 90, has Carcinoma in situ of the liver and / or biliary system. To those who think “its just skin cancer” no its not. He is not going to make it. This skin cancer is going to kill him. That is the reality of ANY CANCER. I live with that fear.

  • Nina M moderator
    6 months ago

    @dhowell, it’s hard not to compare to other cancers, especially having the trauma of seeing what your mom went through. It seems there’s something about skin cancer that really starts to wear on one’s mind over time – the endless treatments and the fear of return. Scott explains it so well, as do you!

    Either before or after your treatment, feel free to comment in this Q&A on scalp treatment: https://skincancer.net/q-and-a/treatment-scalp/comment-page-1/#comments_anchor.

    We’re thinking of you, and I hope these articles and comments make you feel a bit less alone in this! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Moonmomma
    8 months ago

    I have found this to be SO sad, but true. It’s like people don’t think it’s real because some cases are dealt with easily and I want to think that people think it’s just easily cured. I am glad to see more and more information out there making people see it is REAL and it really is cancer.

  • l.larsen
    9 months ago

    Wow, this is exactly how I feel. A cancer diagnosis is damning no matter what kind. Hearing the word is gut-wrenching no matter what kind. For the rest of my life I will have to check the box that says I’ve had cancer. For the rest of my life I will take twice as long sitting at on the toilet so I can inspect my legs and arms for new spots. I’ll be obsessive with every spot on my face every time I look in the mirror. Not even my family showed concern about my diagnosis. My insurance companies care, my bank cared when I tried to get life insurance on my mortgage and I was fortunate enough to only need surgery. Thank you for this article. Sometime it’s just nice to have someone else “get it”.

  • Brenda
    9 months ago

    I’m sorry your family isn’t concerned. It helps if they are. A friend told me her family told her to quit whining it’s just a spot they will get rid of it. So I took a picture of my face after surgery thought her husband would faint. He takes her to her appointments now,and found out a lot. I lost the photo. And it was just a temporary look. Plastic surgeons do wonders. Being on here will help you. My family is so use to me getting something cut out,their not concerned anymore. But hang in their .

  • Brenda
    10 months ago

    I was told I had a squamous cell, and a Basel cell ,went yesterday for them to take more ,but when he got to the Basel cell he said he had to take more than he would normally take but it’s aggressive,he said it had went to the fat layer. I’ve had many skin cancers ,but never one that went to the fat layer,or if I did I didn’t know it. Has anyone else had an aggressive Basel cell

  • rolanstein
    9 months ago

    Hi Brenda (and thanks to Nina for alerting me to Brenda’s post).

    The medical terminology for an “aggressive” BCC is “infiltrative BCC”. Google that and you’ll find plenty of info.

    I had an infiltrative BCC removed from my left leg a few months back. I’ve written a detailed blog post on the experience (see link further down this Comments thread).

    Bear in mind, I had ignored the lesion for years before it was diagnosed, PLUS it was on a leg, which meant a skin graft was required and the healing was slower than on other parts of the body.

    In your case, hopefully the BCC is not on a lower limb, but even if it is, it sounds like you get regular checks, so the excision will likely be less deep than in my case.

    Great that you’re getting it removed now. The outcome is likely to be excellent. It’s usually only when you leave these things unattended for too long that complications can arise.

    Best of luck, but I’m sure you’ll be fine.

    PS: There wasn’t much post-surgery pain in my case, and I believe that’s pretty typical.

  • Brenda
    9 months ago

    Thank you

  • Brenda
    9 months ago

    I’m waiting on second biopsy report haven’t heard anything so that may be good news ,I know it’s a lot of trouble calling people with their results but,telling me if they don’t call within 2 weeks your ok. Isn’t ok LOL it’s on my right leg upper outside thigh . I’ve had so many surgerys I can’t count them all, just wasent ever told its aggressive and in fat layer. Thank you very much for the information. Hope your doing ok

  • Nina M moderator
    9 months ago

    Thank you so much for your comment, @rolanstein! Hopefully this will provide @Brenda with some information and relief. I do hope they got it all, Brenda, and please let us know what happens. Rolanstein, your story is an example of the importance of taking skin cancer seriously, even if others do not. I know Scott is working hard to get that message out, and it sounds like you’re doing the same with your blog. Thank you for being an advocate! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Nina M moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi @Brenda, I’m sorry you found out that it is an aggressive basal cell. I’m not sure what would qualify a basal cell as aggressive, but sounds like the treatment might be tougher. I would encourage you to post here with a new topic and perhaps we can get more response by sharing it on Facebook: https://skincancer.net/forum/non-melanoma/. Perhaps @shellias, @paige-tucker, @rolanstein, or anyone else here can relate? I’d also hope your doc could provide a little more information about the possible outcomes. Wishing you much luck and please let us know about any next steps! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • rolanstein
    9 months ago

    Thanks for your comments, NIna M – and good luck with the biopsies, Brenda.

  • Brenda
    9 months ago

    Thank you ,I’ve had a lot of Basel cell but none went to the fat cells . I’m waiting on results of biopsys now maybe they got it all.

  • Paige Tucker
    10 months ago

    Well said. Thanks from one skin cancer survivor to another.

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thank you. Scott (skincancer.net moderator/author)

  • rolanstein
    11 months ago

    Terrific article, Scott, and I identify with everything you wrote. And great comments from all in response.

    Like you and I’m sure many others who have experienced any form of skin cancer, I feel the need to try to alert others to what I now know – that NO skin cancer is “nothing much”, that all are malignant with the potential to disfigure, incapacitate or even kill. And that early detection and regular checkups can make all the difference. eg: Early intervention = an excision under local in your GP’s surgery; protracted delay = full-on plastic surgery, scarring and possibly much worse.

    I recently had 2 BCCs excised from my left shin and the skin grafts failed, blowing out the rehab time from an anticipated fortnight to 3 months+. I was really hurt when someone I thought was a good friend didn’t even bother to ask after me after the surgery, and hasn’t since, especially since they knew the op was not trivial and would leave significant scars.

    Knowing that people generally do not regard skin cancer, except melanoma, in the same category as other cancers, I decided to write an extensive blog post detailing my experience, and including a close-up pic of my wounds post-surgery. I felt the pic was necessary to have readers recognise from the outset that skin cancer is not something to be lightly dismissed. I don’t know whether that message has gotten through – one lives in hope.

    Anyway, if sites like this and posts like mine on my blog can change even one person’s thinking and prompt them to get regular checkups etc, it’s worthwhile.

    For anyone interested, here’s a link to the post (but of course people here are educated on the realities of skin cancer and are not the target audience):

    https://www.boomtownrap.com/11653/basal-cell-carcinoma-not-so-serious-think-again/

    As you’ll note, Scott, my post is along similar lines to yours, although you’ve distilled your message into a few potent words by contrast with my expansive recording of my BCC experience.

    Best to all.

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply and I was able to look over your blog. I hope the best for you moving forward. Keep up the fight.

  • ShelliAS
    11 months ago

    Very well said. My grandmother died of melanoma, and both my parents had numerous abnormal skin lesions removed. I am of Irish decent, and grew up in Texas. Except for two years in Boston for career reasons, I have spent my life in the southwestern, sunny US. My skin was made for rainy northern latitude locales. And I did major damage to it in my youth. I spent Summers on the beach and countless hours laying in the sun in my backyard. A suntan was a status symbol. Later, as a geologist, I spent many hours outside mapping and wreaking even more havoc on my skin. I have to be grateful that I was exposed to my parents’ skin issues, because it placed me on high alert about my own as an adult. And I have had 7 skin cancers to date (I’m a baby boomer in age), a combo of BCC and SCC. I am grateful that so far, it hasn’t been melanoma. My grandmother was not a sun worshiper, and her melanoma was very sobering. But yes, even if we’re never diagnosed again with skin cancer, our lives do become a series of yearly skin checks, daily applications of sun block, getting nervous with every weird new blotch on our skin, wearing hats working or recreating outside, huddling under canopies at the beach (and re-applying sunblock hourly, and not even thinking of coming out of hiding until evening, etc etc.) It’s always in the back of our mind. How could it not be? And though I have stayed out of the sun and worn sunblock daily for the last 30 years, they say the damage is done in your youth. I’m walking proof. I’m new on this site and grateful to have found this community. I have felt very isolated with my experiences with skin cancer.

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    11 months ago

    Skin cancer has really affected your family in so many ways. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I wish the best for you. Thank you for joining our community. You are welcome here.

  • JerseyGirl
    11 months ago

    Any type of cancer is very scary. We all go through the fears, the stress, and the what ifs. Sometimes people don’t understand that skin cancer is a life long commitment. Wearing sunscreen, a hat, and protective clothing if you have to be out in the sun. Careful body checks all the time and being prepared to have growths/moles removed. If the cancer is serious, we have the chance it could invade our internal organs, loosing body parts, and possibly death. All cancers can do that too, but no one thinks about that.

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    11 months ago

    Wise words Jersey Girl

  • Nina M moderator
    11 months ago

    Wise words, @JerseyGirl, that there are some common fears across cancers, and people sometimes don’t think it applies to skin cancer. The prevention methods for skin cancer add another layer of opportunity to catch it early but also sources of worry and anxiety. Thank you for commenting – we’re very glad to have your reflections here! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • SusanByShore
    1 year ago

    As someone who lost both parents to malignant melanoma despite vigilant check ups every 3 months, I get angry hearing people minimizing skin cancer. I myself, have had Mohs surgery, both BCC, SCC and am currently using Efudex therapy while awaiting my next Mohs surgery in 3 weeks. My last skin check (every 3 months) involved nine biopsies; of which 4 were ok.
    I understand much of that thought process is ignorance and lack of education but the bottom line is ANY cancer is serious.
    As I said to my dermatologist recently I feel like I live with a ticking time bomb. There’s never any sense of complete relief.
    Although I have never used tanning beds or anything similar, I believe they should be outlawed or at least be required to post large signs showing the damage done by these. They almost guarantee cancer will occur at some point in the lives of those using the horrific devices.

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I know the “ticking time bomb” feeling.

  • Vonslife
    1 year ago

    I use to look at mine as, its just skin cancer till I started getting more and more. My scars are on every part of my body. I’m 57 and I have had over 50- 60 removed by the knife! Even had a squamous on my foot. Recently I had the one on my lip done again. It looks horrible and its been almost a month and still hurts. I pray after it heals more I can have reconstructive surgery to fix my smile. I miss smiling. Skin cancer is cancer. There is no cure for it. It never goes away. Remove it and it comes back near the one removed. I wish I had stayed out of the sun!

  • Nina M moderator
    1 year ago

    Such important messages for those who don’t understand skin cancer, @Vonslife. You remind me of this story from another member: https://skincancer.net/life-with-skin-cancer/awareness-story/. It is so hard thinking back to what you wish you’d known. I hope you’re able to smile again soon. – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Brenda
    1 year ago

    Go today to have squamous cell removed by Curettage and electrodesiccation,never had this done before,but did watch a video of it being done. Nurse said they will send in another biopsy. And it was a small area that they took first biopsy from so I’m not worried about this procedure.

  • Vonslife
    1 year ago

    Praying for you

  • Nina M moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you for reporting back, @Brenda! It sounds like it went pretty well. How was this new method compared to your others? I’m glad there are no further worries with the next biopsy! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Brenda
    1 year ago

    It went well enough ,if I have to have more done I’m not sure just have to wait and see .

  • Brenda
    1 year ago

    So sorry but your right if you act like its a big deal your having surgery for squamous cell cancer they say oh your lucky it’s the skin ,then I do get a little mad and tell them how I had it on my face and when they’ were finished I looked like frankenstine ,and 5 surgerys to fix that. Then they got it. I think they need to be on tv telling people what the sun can do to them with pictures .i hope your ok now

  • Nina M moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, Brenda. You’re right, TV would reach so many people. They only seem to mention skin cancer when it’s about sun safety during the summer, and then they never talk about the actual damage it causes. I think having public figures and celebrities talking about it makes a difference too. Hope you’re well! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Brenda
    1 year ago

    Can someone answer this question, a dr does a biopsy, and says it will take around 2 weeks to get results. So why in MOHs surgery they can tell you if they got it all in about 2 hours .

  • Vonslife
    1 year ago

    Mine came back after Mohs surgery so 7 years later I had another Mohs surgery. After deeper cut twice Dr said it was gone. Like I said my lip looks horrible.

  • Nina M moderator
    1 year ago

    A week can crawl by, @Brenda. I hope you find out soon and hoping for good news. – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Nina M moderator
    1 year ago

    Good question, @Brenda. I wonder if it has something to do with the ultra-thin layers that are taken off? I’m not sure! If you happen to be back at the derm (hopefully not too soon!) perhaps you can find out and let us know. Thanks for bringing up this interesting question! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • Brenda
    1 year ago

    I sure will, don’t know why after all these years and all the biopsys I’ve never thought of that. Waiting on results of biopsy now it’s been a week.

  • Brenda
    1 year ago

    You have a right to you own feelings. Never let anyone make you feel your making too much of it. And all skin cancers can be bad . Hope your ok

  • Nina M moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this encouragement, Brenda <3 We're so glad you're here. - Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • diana.zarate
    1 year ago

    I agree in my own experience my own mother says it is not that bad.. that i AM dramatic that this is not hurting me as i feel… But in some thougts i understand her because my dad past away last november for lung cáncer -_-

  • Nina M moderator
    1 year ago

    What an interesting and perhaps frustrating situation, @diana-zarate. I can see why your mother might feel that your father’s passing from lung cancer requires more attention, But that doesn’t mean that your experience isn’t difficult as well. Please know that we are always hear to listen to any skin cancer pains or challenges. Thank you for sharing this observation with us! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • DanaEllingen
    2 years ago

    I have had skin cancer and prostate cancer. Both have had huge impacts on my life.

  • Nina M moderator
    2 years ago

    I’m sorry you’ve had a double whammy of this awful disease, @DanaEllingen. They are both devastating, but it seems to me in slightly different ways. Would like to hear more of your perspective. Thanks for commenting! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • DanaEllingen
    2 years ago

    Prostate cancer impact was in things that were visible primarily to me, while skin cancer shows on the outside, causing embarrassment and/or shame. Both cause pain and threaten death.

  • Nina M moderator
    2 years ago

    That makes a lot of sense, @DanaEllingen. Both an effect on ones mental well-being, but pc more private and skin cancer more public. Thanks for elaborating! I also manage our brother community for prostate cancer, ProstateCancer.net, if you’d like to participate there. We’re glad to have you here! – Nina, SkinCancer.net Team

  • April Pulliam moderator
    2 years ago

    Powerful words, Scott! Every one rings so true!

  • Scott Matheny moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you

  • Poll