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Skin Cancer Is Cancer, Despite What Some People Say

I am familiar with the recommendation to not go on social media at night, because it can keep you from sleeping well. Last night, I ignored that advice and went on Instagram before I went to sleep. I came across a post by the Today Show about a celebrity who was recently diagnosed with skin cancer, a basal cell carcinoma. So I read it. I always read about skin cancer, and it’s not like it even takes up so much of my time to do so, because there aren’t many articles posted about it. I was curious about the post since I have had two basal cells. I started reading the comments, and after reading just a few, I saw a pattern emerging.

But how serious is skin cancer, really?

My heart started pounding and I got really upset. There were so many comments from people stating: “It’s just skin cancer”, “Stop making a big deal about this, it’s only skin cancer, it’s not real cancer”, “She’ll be fine”, and my favorite, “So overdramatic”. Really? Basically, many comments were from people who were almost annoyed that the Today show was making a big deal about a basal cell carcinoma.

The answer: very serious

Now, of course, there were comments written in response to these negative statements, illustrating how serious skin cancer can be, from both survivors and from relatives and friends of skin cancer patients:

“I just had a family member die from melanoma.”
“My sister died of melanoma a year ago, it was found by her hairdresser, it was on her scalp.”
“I had a malignant melanoma removed last year. Go to get checked.”
“Please do your research on melanoma, it is deadly.”
“I had a good friend die within 10 months of being diagnosed with it (melanoma). She was 37.”

And some people offered prayers.

Ignorance is not bliss

After I got over the feelings of frustration with those who downplayed the seriousness of a skin cancer diagnosis, I realized that many of those who posted comments saying that skin cancer isn’t serious are just plain ignorant. We say this all the time, and it’s true. There is a lack of awareness about skin cancer, ranging from who is at risk (answer: everyone) to how to prevent and treat it. It often seems that unless someone knows someone who has had skin cancer, they don’t realize how much those who have it can suffer. And not everyone knows you can die from skin cancer, but yes, you can.

Yes, basal cell is cancer too

There was also a debate in the comments about whether basal cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer. Some said no (e.g., “I’ve had basal cells removed but I don’t tell people I have ‘skin cancer’”, “Basal cells are precancerous, not melanoma”) But others emphasized that basal cell carcinoma is skin cancer (e.g. “Actually, basal cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer, just not a dangerous one”)

Comments in the form of education

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I do see an important message in some of the comments on this post, to educate people about the importance of annual skin checks: “Monitor your moles and your body and if anything looks suspicious see a dermatologist. Yearly checkups should be part of your medical appointments”, “…get regular checkups from a dermatologist.”

How do we educate the public on the seriousness of skin cancer?

I often think about ways to better educate the general public about skin cancer and the importance of having yearly skin checks. I wonder why a full body check isn’t recommended as part of a yearly check-up. We know the recommendation to have a mammogram by age 40, a colonoscopy by age 50, and so on. But how many of us have heard a recommendation about when to start getting skin checks? Who has been told to get them?

Maybe the back and forth comments on the Instagram post served a purpose. If they lead to even one individual checking himself/herself and going for a skin check, they’ll be useful.

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

  • Kitty35
    1 week ago

    I also agree that the public needs to better understand that skin cancer is not trivial regardless of the type.

    I do think the general public is educated much more these days regarding prophylactic measures to prevent skin cancer. That said, I am not sure why in general, that people underestimate the significance of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma.

    I decided to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist last year for a spot on my forehead that didn’t want to heal (always seemed to be red and a little scabby). Thank goodness I did, because the biopsy showed basal cell carcinoma (infiltrating) which my doctor explained to me was cause for more concern. I was scheduled for the Mohs procedure with a dermatologist surgeon. He had to perform a fairly large incision down and across my forehead above my eyebrow. He was a great surgeon (old guy very well known in our area) and my scar is really not that noticeable as he did teeny tiny stitching.

    Just like the other writer, in explaining my story, people just assume no big deal.

    I love getting these posts from skin cancer.net. The articles, etc are always so informative.

    Thanks so much and keep up the good work.

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    1 week ago

    @kitty35 I am so glad you find the articles on skincancer.net to be informative. Thanks for telling your story here. I am so happy that you made the appointment with the dermatologist when you noticed a spot that wasn’t healing. I’ll bet you just helped at least one person by sharing your story. You helped raise awareness about the need to see a dermatologist to check out any spot that seems suspicious. I’ll add that it’s important to go for yearly skin checks. How are you feeling? I’m happy that your scar is barely noticeable and that you had a positive experience with the surgeon. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • momof3
    1 week ago

    Hi. I just read your post. I agree we need to educate everyone.

    I’ve reached out to a local senator in my state and there is a bill up for vote right now called skin cancer education. It’s to educate the children from elementary thru high school. I pray it passes.

    See, my son died from melanoma at age 24. My husband now 55 was first diagnosed with melanoma at age 28.

    Education is key!

  • Courtney31
    1 week ago

    I’m so sorry about your son.

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    1 week ago

    @momof3 I am so sorry for the loss of your son. I’m sending you my sincere condolences. Good for you for contacting your senator. I’m glad to hear there is a bill up for vote to educate children about skin cancer. Please let us know if it passes — I hope it does! I totally agree with you that education and awareness are key. How is your husband doing? Once again, I am so sorry for the loss of your son. Please know we are here for you, always. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • RBar
    2 weeks ago

    I had doctors tell me skin cancer is no big deal.

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    @rbar What? Really? Did a doctor say that to you knowing you had skin cancer? How did you reply? I’m not even sure I’d know what to say in response to that comment. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Moonmomma
    2 weeks ago

    I think people need to not be so judgmental and insensitive. Cancer is cancer regardless of how severe or “deadly”. Having to go through treatment for anything can be difficult, whether it’s squamous cell, basal cell or melanoma. It TRULY bothers me (more than I would like to admit) that people down play skin cancer (of any kind) and we there isn’t as much publicity for skin cancer as with other cancers. Some I know think once it’s cut out you are good to go for the rest of your life and don’t understand. I appreciate anyone who tries to spread the word about skin cancer and skin cancer prevention. Keep on spreading the word!

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    @moonmomma Thank you for your comment. I will keep spreading the word, trying to increase awareness and understanding of skin cancer. How are you doing? What brings you to the site? I hope you are well. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Courtney31
    2 weeks ago

    I completely understand what you are saying, I’ve been cut 3 times within 3 months, 2 Moh surgery. 1st people say oh it’s only basal cells then move on to next conversation. I give up and say no more, not informing anyone bout my health. Not worth it.

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    1 week ago

    @courtney31 I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. And I’m so proud of you for listening to your gut instincts and firing the dermatologist who wasn’t checking you. I’m so glad you found a dermatologist who you trust and who takes good care of you. I’m curious, what gave you the push to fire the dermatologist you used to see? Your comments here may help someone else in a similar position. Finally, how are you healing from the December 10th surgery? We are here for you, always. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    1 week ago

    @courtney31 Thanks for explaining what happened with your previous dermatologist. Good for you for trusting yourself and not being willing to put up with a dermatologist who you felt wasn’t paying attention to your concerns. I’m so happy you are pleased with your new dermatologists. Is your husband okay? What happened with the spot they found on him? Thank you again for telling your story. I’ll bet your story will give someone else the strength to advocate for themselves and trust their instincts if they feel something is either wrong and/or that their concerns are not being addressed. Thanks. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Courtney31
    1 week ago

    I’m feeling good from my Dec.10 surgery, still tender but that’s expected as where’s it’s at. Thank you for asking.

    The reason I fired my dermatologist I felt my last 2-3 visits with him were very short! Again, he wasn’t in the room 2-3 mins I think he was trying to meet his quota for the day. But my last visit, I had these spots on my forehead out of the blues, nothing I’ve ever had before so I asked him what they were and what do we do about it. His response was oh it’s from your childhood just popping up. Hands me a paper to make an appointment in 6 months, I just walked right out of there and didn’t bother. I have tried to find the person head of the dermatologist Dept there to report everything stating he isn’t doing his job & how he missed all my issues!
    But I didn’t have any luck but I’m done there and happy with my new Drs. I made my husband leave too and sure enough they found a spot on him as his father also died of Melanoma.

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    @courtney31 Thank you for commenting and I hope you are healing well from your 2 Mohs surgeries. How are you? We hear similar comments from so many people who have had skin cancer, as you read in the article I wrote. It seems that for many people, they just don’t take it seriously until they have it themselves. Please let us know how you’re doing. We are here for you. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Courtney31
    1 week ago

    Thank you, I’m finally able to sleep as one of the surgery was right at the shoulder/arm n I’m a side sleeper! I had that on done Dec. 10. I’m suppose to start the topical cream once it healed up as this was 2nd time it’s come back in this same area.
    My father passed away from melanoma but before that I had been getting checked every 6 months but just over a yr ago I fired my dermatologist, I had a feeling he wasn’t checking me when he’s only in the room 2 mins n zaps on you. When I went to a new Dr. She no more shut the door n said what’s that on your shoulder, we hadn’t officially met each other yet! So glad I went with my gut feeling.

    I have been under the Blu light for my face 2 times n my chest 2 times, 3 surgeries and using the topical cream when spots appear.
    My Drs are wonderful n even have me their home cell #.

    Now trying to educate my grandkids

  • Dozeyblonde
    2 weeks ago

    A GP said to me when I first went with skin problems that 1. I should try and be comfortable in my skin and not be vain 2. It isn’t melanoma, which is what we look for 3. Come back in 6 months, see if it’s changed.
    Two years later I finally got a dermatologist appointment. Enough said for now

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    1 week ago

    @dozeyblonde Hi again. I’m sending you an article about Efudex from our site. I know you’ve already used it, but I thought it may be helpful. https://skincancer.net/life-with-skin-cancer/efudex-first-time/. Good luck getting the derm appointment. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    @dozeyblonde I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that insensitivity with your GP. How are you doing? Did the dermatologist do a skin check? Hope you are well. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    1 week ago

    @dozeyblonde I’m sorry you have to wait so long for an appointment with a dermatologist, but now I understand what the issue is. Yes, it does seem like you have to persist with the GP. Good luck. Can the GP do a biopsy? Please always know you can check in at this site for support and information. We care. Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Dozeyblonde
    1 week ago

    Hi Renee, thanks this is such a great site to be on. No the dermatologist looked at a couple of areas with a small scope. The UK NHS is in terrible crisis and no hospitals in my area are taking referrals right now. If i can pay I can get an appointment soon but I work part time and am a carer for my husband. So bit of a non-starter. Will just have to persist with the GP. It’s as you said skin cancers are marginalised. I feel a campaign coming on 🙂

  • Renee Feldman moderator author
    1 week ago

    @dozeyblonde Yes, I hope it doesn’t take 2 years this time to get an appointment with a dermatologist, especially since you are noticing areas that you think need to be biopsied. Please keep us posted as to how the referral process goes. Is the hold up with getting a referral or getting an appointment scheduled once you have the referral? Renee SkinCancer.net Moderator

  • Dozeyblonde
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Renee Feldman. I just finished a round of Efudix from the derm, who said it’s AKs this will sort them out, no need to see me again. I have to do my chest next as i had a small BCC there excised some years ago. Three areas on my face aren’t resolved though with the cream, still healing but pretty sure they need a biopsy. Will have to start on the GP referrel round again to get another appointment with a derm. Hope it doesn’t take 2 years again!

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