Shock After Diagnosis
Last updated: June 2020
A diagnosis of skin cancer brings up many emotions, including feelings of shock, surprise, fear, and worry.
What happens after a skin cancer diagnosis
Over 900 survey respondents to the recent Skin Cancer in America 2017 survey conducted by Health Union shared their experiences on the emotional journey from diagnosis through cancer treatment and living with the fear of recurrence. Many respondents expressed how their diagnosis of skin cancer changed their lives, starting with the emotional impact. People with skin cancer said they were scared for themselves, as well as breaking the news to beloved family members, and that the news of a skin cancer diagnosis made the future uncertain.
Risks that led to skin cancer diagnosis
The vast majority (98%) of people with skin cancer surveyed in the Skin Cancer in America 2017 survey identified skin cancer risk factors that applied to them, including:
- Not using sunscreen when in the sun (77%)
- Being fair skinned (72%)
- Having had blistering sunburns (69%)
- Having skin that easily burns (58%)
- Having a family history of skin cancer (38%)
The importance of self-examination
Regardless of what types of skin cancer people were diagnosed with, most people who receive a diagnosis of skin cancer first found it themselves. 39% had a reddish, raised patch of skin that may have been itchy or scaly, and 37% recognized a mole meeting any or all of the “ABCDE” characteristics (Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolving).1 Others had an elevated growth on the skin (27%), a shiny red, pink, or translucent bump (27%), an open sore that bled or oozed (21%), or a wart-like growth (14%).
In addition, 29% of respondents had 2 types of skin cancer, 12% had 3 types, and 1% had 4 or more types of skin cancer.
Taking action after a skin cancer diagnosis
After being diagnosed with skin cancer, most people take precautionary measures against its recurrence. People who were reluctant to use sunscreen when outdoors wear clothing that provides protection from the sun, or avoid sun exposure found that after diagnosis. Tanning bed usage among survey respondents also greatly dropped after a diagnosis of skin cancer.
In addition to practicing healthy sun behaviors, more people were likely to perform regular skin checks on themselves and visit a doctor for skin checks. Doctors recommend self-examinations be conducted monthly, as skin cancers that are detected and removed early are more likely to be curable.
Do you sunscreen in the fall?