The Power of Talking About Skin Exams

Over the past year and a half, I've noticed a powerful wave of awareness wash over my team of colleagues at Health Union. Since we launched in June 2017, Susan, my partner on the site, and I scheduled skin exams for ourselves and our significant others. Susan shared her experiences with multiple biopsies and an excision that lead her to feeling like a piece of meat. Her husband also had to go back for several follow up appointments. I also shared my experiences and questions with the community after not hearing back on results from my own biopsy. I was always comforted by the encouragement from the community to never wait and to advocate for my own health.

Sharing skin exam awareness

This, in turn, lead us to spread the word about our dermatology appointments with our colleagues. We're a close-knit group, and felt pretty open talking about the details of a full body exam, skin biopsies, and checking in on each other while waiting for results. One by one, when we shared that precancerous moles needed to be removed, our colleagues realized they were probably overdue for their own skin checks. I shared the dermatologist office's information with over a dozen of my team members, and let them know how easy it was to get an appointment with the physician's assistant Susan and I saw.

From exam to treatment

What surprised me most was that half of those who went for skin exams needed a follow up for biopsies of precancer. These were women in their 20s and 30s with varying family histories of skin cancer and skin tones. One colleague needed an excision of a small mole on her back that was considered severe, and one step from being melanoma. She decided to write about how she was shocked by the impact of her mole removal. Another colleague had to have a pre-cancerous mole removed from what she called, her "nether region."

Personal experience makes a difference

There was something compelling about the way we were able to see the direct results of educating others within this small work community about skin cancer. My second partner on the site, Nina, and I would joke about how we would casually bring up skin exams as often as we could. When you can point to people and specific examples of a "mole that was nothing" but look at all these stitches, it hits a bit closer to home.

This little story of a skin cancer awareness wave taught me just how impactful sharing skin cancer stories really can be. I know others who have gone through the wringer want to make sure others don't suffer the way they have. It may seem like others aren't listening or don't fully understand just how serious skin cancer is, but I guarantee at least one person will pay attention. The ripple effect will follow.

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