So you’ve had skin cancer and completed your treatment. Congratulations – you’re officially a cancer survivor!
That doesn’t mean you won’t have concerns, however. Cancer survivors can easily become very fearful of recurrence, but there’s no need to worry if you take proper care of yourself after treatment. Keeping a close eye on your skin and getting regular follow-up exams is important, because like the initial cancer, early detection of recurrence is crucial.
Here are some suggestions for skin cancer aftercare.
1. The First Five Years
Experts point out that the likelihood of cancer recurrence is greatest in the first five years after treatment. So it’s important to be especially watchful (though not anxious) for the next five years.
2. Keep Your Follow-Up Appointments
This is something you’ll want to talk about with your doctor. You can work together to come up with a workable appointment and testing schedule so you know what to expect. Depending on the kind of cancer you had, your doctor will probably want to see you every 3 to 6 months, and sometimes just yearly.
These exams will usually involve an examination of your lymph nodes and a thorough check of your skin. You might have a CT scan as well.
3. Sun Protection
You certainly don’t have to give up an outdoor-oriented lifestyle, but it makes sense to take precautions when you’re outside in the sun. If you can, avoid the sun during peak hours (10am to 2pm), but if you are outside during those hours, use a good sunscreen and cover vulnerable areas with clothing.
4. Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is always a good idea. But following skin cancer, you might want to include more cancer-fighting nutrients and foods in your diet. You may also decide to take a vitamin and mineral supplement, or several supplements. Work with a medical or health professional to develop a healthy diet plan. A qualified herbalist or naturopathic physician can help if you want more information on the role of nutrition in preventing cancer recurrence.
It may not seem like it has anything to do with preventing skin cancer, but regular exercise is important for overall health. And maintaining your health is what you are trying to do! Again, working with a physical therapist or other medical professional is crucial here. He or she can help you develop an exercise plan based on your health and life situation.
Some sources contend that it’s not just the sun that is to blame for skin cancer. After all, the sun has been around a long time, but skin cancer has only recently become so common. So to give you peace of mind and help you to do something proactive, you might want to do some research and see if there are any chemicals you’ve been exposing yourself to over the years. Maybe you’ll opt for all natural-fiber clothing or organic cotton sheets. Getting some of the chemicals out of your life may help your immune system do its cancer-fighting job more effectively.
Good aftercare is important in preventing skin cancer recurrence. Take good care of yourself and your skin so you can rest more easily.