Too frequently, I meet new patients who come in noting they’ve had a skin growth they’ve been concerned about for months, a year, or even years. Some have had growths that have continued to grow in size, bleed, break open and even take over the face — growing into the eye, ear, or lip. Not surprisingly, these were skin cancer.
Why this wait before seeking care?
Is it because it takes so long to get in to see doctor? Certainly, access to a physician, and specifically a dermatologist, can be difficult and healthcare systems need to work on this problem, but wait times will rarely be over a year! Many practices also triage their calls to get patients who may have skin cancers in earlier.
In several of my interactions, people have been reluctant and even scared to seek care. Reasons I’ve heard include: 1) the growth wasn’t bothering them that much, 2) they didn’t think it would be anything serious, and 3) they were scared about what would happen if they did have a skin cancer.
Interestingly, I think back to why people do seek care for a new or changing growth. Oftentimes, it is a spot that the patient has picked up him/herself, but often, it’s someone else — most commonly a spouse — who has encouraged the patient to seek care. I’ve also had a handful of patients whose hairdressers kept pressing the patient to seek care. And guess what? Turned out that they did have skin cancer.
Have you waited before seeking care for a new or changing growth? If so, why?
Is there enough awareness about getting skin checks from your doctor, doing your own self skin checks, or when to seek care?
If you do have a new or changing growth on your skin, don’t wait. Pick up the phone and call a/your dermatologist or your primary physician to get it checked out. Explain your concerns about having skin cancer. When skin cancers are caught early, they can be very curable. However, there are many types of skin cancers, and some unfortunately are aggressive and not easy to cure once they have progressed or traveled to other parts of the body.