People living with skin cancer struggle with perceptions that their condition is less serious than other types of cancer despite significant physical and emotional impact, according to Skin Cancer In America 2018, a national survey by Health Union, LLC of people diagnosed with the condition.
One respondent expressed being “shocked and disheartened” by people who think skin cancer can simply be “zapped off at the dermatologist’s office” and, as a result, having “my cancer downplayed.” The reality is that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the US each year than all other cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society. And, almost 100 percent of Skin Cancer in America respondents said they had a surgical procedure, such as excision or Mohs surgery, for their skin cancer.
Recurrence concerns add to the painful reality, with more than half of respondents thinking about recurrence daily or a few times per week.
The need for frequent monitoring also contributes heavily to the often overlooked emotional impact of skin cancer. Almost three-quarters of respondents said they had skin checks or were monitored at least twice a year. One respondent described the biopsies and tests as “scary and painful,” saying they “hurt and leave scars.”
Concerns about skin checks and other monitoring appointments are particularly significant among those with melanoma. More than 80 percent of melanoma patients getting skin biopsies reported either “more anxiety” or “a lot more anxiety than normal.” Additionally, 34 percent of respondents with melanoma reported “a lot more anxiety than normal” due to scans, higher than those with squamous cell carcinoma (19 percent) and basal cell carcinoma (18 percent).
Skin cancer also has a significant impact on the physical, social, and emotional well-being of respondents, on par with the effects of people living with other forms of cancer. More than 60 percent of respondents said they worry about dying at least "a little bit," and 64 percent said they feel at least "a little bit" sad and nervous. More than a fifth of respondents said they had a “more negative” or “much more negative” outlook on life since their diagnosis.
The resources that people with skin cancer seek out are unique to the external and visible nature of the condition. In addition to research topics prevalent across different types of cancer – like new treatments—nearly half of respondents said they seek out information about sun protection and 40 percent look for photos of different types of skin cancer. Searching for photos is even more prominent—47 percent—among those with basal cell carcinoma.
“We found very early on that sharing photos is an important aspect of the patient journey for our SkinCancer.net community and, as a result, have facilitated more opportunities to do so,” said Tim Armand, Health Union president and co-founder. “In addition to providing useful information, photo sharing serves as a powerful and very human way to connect with others living with a condition that is erroneously viewed as less impactful than other forms of cancer.”
Skin Cancer in America surveyed 805 US respondents living with skin cancer from Jan. 23 to March 21, 2018.