18.1 PTC Cancer Life Phases: Skin Cancer Recovery
Once you've lived through the first three life stages of dealing with cancer - PREVENTION, DIAGNOSIS and TREATMENT, we face long term recovery and practices that make that the best living possible, hopefully, cancer-free for many, many years. Those practices include maintaining vigilance of PREVENTION with regular self-exams and periodic testing to continue to catch any future cancers early on with a prompt DIAGNOSIS and TREATMENT. The following will help live beyond that TREATMENT experience with long term RECOVERY . . .
A cancer diagnosis can affect every aspect of the patient's life, including work, financial issues, appearance and sexuality. Coping with cancer treatment is never easy, but following healthy lifestyle practices, like eating right, exercising, and dealing with your emotions can help. There are also many treatment options for easing cancer pain. Cancer caregivers should also be sure to look after themselves to keep up with this demanding role. And then there is the lifetime recovery challenge as a cancer survivor - celebrate the fact that you are now in that elite community known as a 'cancer survivor'!
What is the recovery process from skin cancer like?Recovering from skin cancer removal surgery is like taking care of a wound. Your skin in that area might be sore, red or draining depending on how big the skin cancer was, how deep it was and how much they had to cut off. It is really important to take care of the place they cut by keeping it clean and trying not to move it around too much in a way that would strain your wound or stitches (if you had any). You might have some permanent scars. For Melanoma, or if you get chemotherapy, the timelines and recovery are different. It depends on how long you have chemotherapy for, and how well it works.
How long does it take?Healing times depend again on how intense the removal was. It could take weeks or months as the places where the doctor cut heal. Just like when you cut or burn yourself, you may still be able to see the lines where they cut for a long time, like a year or more. You might have some permanent scars. You should keep your wounds out of the sun because that can make recovery slower and worse. It can also put you at risk of developing more skin cancer.
What types of support would a patient need?You will need to keep following-up with your doctor and doing self-examinations to check if the skin cancer comes back or new ones form. If your skin cancer is removed from a place that might alter any of your other abilities, you might need someone to help take care of you. For example, if you get a skin cancer removed from your face, depending on what part of the face was involved, that might make it hard for you to see or eat normally for a time and you might need some help.
What resources are available?You can seek support from nutritionists, counseling services, pain management professionals or maybe even physical therapy. Also, be sure to seek social support by surrounding yourself with supportive and helpful friends and family members. Some cancer survivors also find it really helpful to join an online group of other cancer survivors because they feel well-understood by those people and can talk openly about their experiences with one another.