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Skin Cancer: Recovery

Jessica Evert, MD, edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD

anxious womanPost treatment, skin cancer patients frequently must come to terms with scaring. Physical scars resulting from removal of tumors may be visible when wearing casual clothing.

The psychological impact of skin cancer is also significant. Even if they are covered while in public, scaring tends to be a constant reminder of mortality. There is no way to undo existing skin damage, and the risk that new skin cancers will develop is reasonably high. Knowing that one has experienced a potentially life-threatening illness, and knowing that treasured outdoor activities like sun bathing, surfing, or hiking are no longer wise or can no longer be engaged in without spontaneity-killing precautions can be depressing and anxiety provoking. Psychotherapy can help to promote adaptation to the new circumstances.

Regardless of emotional state, skin cancer survivors remain at an increased risk for relapse and are wise to take careful precautions to prevent such relapse. Avoidance of direct sun exposure when possible, and sensible precautions when not possible is mandatory. Regular cancer screenings, both self-administered, and by appointment with a dermatologist are also smart. It may be wise as well to keep a regularly updated photographic record of skin features so that any noted changes to those features can be easily verified.