People contained in bubbles avoid coming in contact with each other.

Avoiding People, Places and Dermatology Appointments?

I took the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan for a routine, mandatory COVID-19 test for work (if there is such a thing as a routine COVID-19 test). I started looking around the City and realized that we have all become professional avoiders. Everywhere I looked there were reminders to avoid people and places with people. I have become a little lazy when it comes to engaging others, and I've also been avoiding seeing my doctors. That's why it's been quite some time since I last got a skin cancer check.

I've been avoiding getting a skin cancer check

Honestly, I don’t want to go to doctor’s appointments, including dermatologists, right now. I keep thinking about that saying in my head that I want to avoid them “like the plague.” Now, I have added mental roadblocks in that I have recently moved and am in a new area and cannot see my previous physicians. Evidently, I am not alone. People are missing their dermatology appointments and that's reportedly leading to missed diagnoses.

I'm not alone: many have been avoiding their doctors

A recent survey of dermatologists from around the world suggested that 21% of melanomas may have been left undiagnosed due to the pandemic.1 It estimated that as much as 34% of dermatology appointments have been missed during this period of social distancing and quarantining. According to Kyleigh LiPira from the Melanoma Research Foundation, lockdowns and the additional strain on health care systems worldwide continue to push this worrying trend. Ms. LiPira emphasizes the importance of self-checks in spotting melanoma.

Your doctor's not your only resource

It's true that your dermatologist can be your go-to for skin cancer checks, but that doesn't preclude you from performing them on your own. What about self-examinations? What if you asked a friend or family member to help you? Maybe you can alert your hairstylist or barber if you have a history of skin cancer so they can be on the lookout as well.

So, what's my plan?"

  1. Self-Checks
  2. Find a friend or family member who will help me with skin checks.
  3. Re-train myself to re-engage people in a safe way.
  4. Sort through what is legitimate, think critically, and reflect on fear-based avoidance.
  5. Consider that the consequences of skipping skin cancer checks could be severe.
  6. Talk to the dermatologist's office staff about what precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of all patients.
  7. Have others hold me accountable for seeing the dermatologist.
  8. Develop a plan that is specific and measurable, i.e. "I'll get a skin cancer check in the next 3 months."

Foregoing a skin cancer check might put you at risk

There is a lot at stake. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 15,000 people have gone undiagnosed with skin cancer in the United States alone over the past ten months. I don’t want to add to this number. While it would be so much easier to simply binge watch my favorite show or immerse myself in a book or hobby, I need to keep my priorities straight because getting a skin cancer check at my dermatologist's office could save my life.

So, here are my questions for you

  1. Have you skipped a dermatology appointment or skin cancer check for any reason?
  2. What is keeping you from going?
  3. What are you going to do about that and when?
  4. Would it help to have someone hold you accountable? If so, who is that person?
  5. If you cannot see a doctor for some reason, what strategy will you employ to monitor your skin?

Poll

Have you been to your dermatologist since the start of the pandemic?

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