What to expect from a skin cancer diagnosis – from people who lived it
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:
Regardless of what types of skin cancer people were diagnosed with, most people who receive a diagnosis of skin cancer first found it themselves. Thirty-nine percent 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%).
The Skin Cancer in America 2017 survey found that:
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 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, their habits changed. 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.
American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed online on 5/18/17 at https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/detect/can-you-spot-skin-cancer.