Having Skin Cancer Causes Anxiety at Other Medical Appointments

Something I realized recently, as I was having blood drawn for a health screening at work, is that I have a lot more anxiety about medical appointments and procedures than I used to. Years ago, prior to being diagnosed with skin cancer, going to the doctor was not really a cause for anxiety. Routine appointments were just that – routine. Even a visit for something that wasn’t routine didn’t cause much stress.

No such thing as a routine medical appointment

I have realized, though, that now, no matter what kind of appointment it is, I have pre-appointment anxiety. And I attribute this to skin cancer.

I’ve now had skin cancer for over twenty-five years. In those 25+ years, I have had A LOT of appointments.

  1. I have had skin checks.
  2. I have had biopsies.
  3. I have had cryotherapy to remove precancerous areas. I have had laser treatments to remove precancerous areas.
  4. I have had electrodesiccation and curettage (also known as scrape-and-burn) to remove a squamous cell carcinoma in situ.
  5. I have had numerous excisional surgeries to remove basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.
  6. I have had excisional surgeries where I was put under general anesthesia, for removal of multiple cancerous areas.
  7. And I have had a Mohs surgery, which actually caused me the most anxiety of any of the procedures or surgeries I have ever had throughout my journey with skin cancer.

Honestly? I am tired of skin cancer.

Mentally, I am completely over the checkups and procedures and surgeries. They are draining, both physically and emotionally.

Appointment anxiety spills over to other appointments

I have recently realized that the stress of having skin cancer has carried over to any other appointment I have. If I am having a wellness check, I’m nervous. If I’m seeing a doctor for an illness, I’m nervous. If I’m getting lab work done, I’m nervous. Even if I am just getting a vaccination, I’m nervous.

Sometimes the anxiety is just a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, or a general sense of unease. Frequently, it causes an increased heart rate and my blood pressure to raise. But even if I try to not be anxious about an upcoming appointment (skin cancer related or not), I am anxious.

Reminding myself of my own advice

When our community members ask how to ease their anxiety, a response I have given more than a few times is to “inhale courage and exhale fear”.

This is something I now remind myself as well.

I have also found something else that helps – I keep my focus on the future. I will tell myself that “this time tomorrow, it will all be over with” or “three days from now the appointment will be over”, or even “this time next week, you won’t be worrying about this.” A little pep talk to myself does seem to help.

Getting there extra early

And I also now take the advice of my daughter whenever I am going to an appointment, to get to an appointment extra early. I have started doing this so I don’t go straight from the car pretty much right into the examining room. Doing this gives me several minutes to breathe deeply and try to relax.

The fact is, medical appointments and procedures, skin-cancer related or not, are necessary and will continue throughout the rest of my life. Finding the best ways to help ease my anxiety, and remembering to practice them, will hopefully make these appointments a little bit easier.

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