Skin Cancer: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

I’ve had skin cancer for a lot of years. My first diagnosis was in 1995. When I received that diagnosis, I naively thought skin cancer would be a "one and done" kind of thing and I could go on with my life. I was wrong, plain and simple. It took a second diagnosis of skin cancer for me to realize that skin cancer was a lot more serious than I had given it credit for. To this day, I’m still having new skin cancer areas. I had a lot to learn about skin cancer, and 27 years later I’m still learning about skin cancer.

Is skin cancer serious?

A big misconception by many (including myself, very early on) is that skin cancer isn’t a big deal. I think many of us can attest that it is a big deal and that it can even be a very big deal. And that is why the other day when I was reading a blog online about someone’s experience with skin cancer, I had to jump in.

Some think skin cancer isn't dangerous

The lady who was sharing her experience with the author of the blog skin cancer said that she previously had surgery for melanoma but was now developing areas of basal cell carcinoma. In her article, she said that “basal cell carcinomas aren’t dangerous,” but are instead bothersome.

Ok, let's talk about this

True, they are bothersome, but it's FALSE to say that they aren’t dangerous. All skin cancer is serious! I waffled for a while on whether I should say something, but I realized that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a skin cancer awareness advocate. I would also be doing a disservice to people who aren’t familiar with skin cancer and took her statement that basal cell carcinomas weren’t dangerous as accurate.

I brought out the facts, politely

So, I empathized with her having to go through skin cancer surgeries but said that her statement that basal cell carcinomas are not dangerous isn’t exactly correct. I said that left untreated, basal cell carcinomas can grow deep into surrounding tissue and cause a lot of damage and disfigurement. And, although it’s rare, basal cell carcinomas can be fatal. I added that basal cell carcinomas are the most common type of skin cancer, but it is important to have them treated. I ended my response by saying that I feel that raising awareness about skin cancer is imperative and mentioned that more people are diagnosed in the United States each year with skin cancer than with all other skin cancers combined.

It wasn't exactly well-received

Apparently, this person didn’t like my comments. She responded that basal cells are nothing compared with her melanoma, that she was hoping for a squamous cell just so she could have something different, and she was knowledgeable because she had had five basal cell carcinomas. She ended her response by making a snarky remark. Honestly, her response took me by surprise.

I've never wished for skin cancer

I have never wished for a squamous cell, nor have I wished for a basal cell nor an actinic keratosis. I obviously touched a nerve with her, which made me again wonder if I shouldn’t have commented on her post, but it all came back to this: how many people would read her statement that basal cell carcinomas aren’t dangerous and then not have a suspicious area on their skin checked by a doctor, thinking instead that it’s no big deal?

I couldn't be a part of the misinformation

I realized that my being quiet would perpetuate the spreading of misinformation, that was something I couldn’t do, even if it made someone upset. I don’t know everything there is to know about skin cancer. I’ve learned a lot since my first diagnosis, but I know there is still more to learn. Skin cancer is indeed a journey, isn’t it?

What do you do when you come across skin cancer misinformation? Share with us in the comments

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