While common and sometimes deadly when untreated, skin cancer is largely preventable. Wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen outdoors provides significant protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays; yet an American Cancer Society survey found that 31% of people never wear sunscreen.
Unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from the sun or tanning beds, can significantly increase melanoma risk. People with pale skin, multiple moles or a family history of skin cancer are also at increased risk.
Early detection and treatment can usually halt skin cancer. Watch for skin changes, particularly the development of new growths or changes in the size or color of a mole, growth or spot. Warning signs include:
Scaling, bleeding or oozing.
The spread of color beyond the borders of a mole or spot.
Changes in sensation such as tenderness, pain or itching.
Stay in the shade and avoid direct sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are most intense.
Wear wide-brimmed hats and cover skin with protective clothing when outdoors.
Protect your eyes with sunglasses that provide UVA/UVB protection.
Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen and lip balm that provide both UVA and UVB protection. Choose products with SPF 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen generously (about an ounce per application) 30 minutes before going outdoors to give it time to soak into your skin. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling off or sweating. Be aware that water-resistant sunscreen only provides about 40 minutes of protection and should be reapplied frequently.
With the first spell of hot weather finally here, we’re spending more time outdoors soaking up the sunshine. But without proper protection sun exposure carries the risk of skin cancer. The most common of all cancers, skin cancer accounts for about half of U.S. cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society. Every year, more than 3.5 million new cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer and more than 76,000 new cases of potentially-deadly melanoma are diagnosed in America.
Most basal and squamous cell skin cancers are caused by sun exposure and are most likely to develop on the face, ears, neck, lips or backs of the hands, the areas of the bodies most frequently exposed to the sun. These cancers begin in the basal and squamous cells — from which they get their name — that form the base of the skin’s outer layer. Discovered and treated early, basal and squamous cell cancers are highly treatable, offering an excellent prognosis for complete recovery. However, if ignored and untreated, these cancers can spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma skin cancer is the most serious form of skin cancer, killing an average 10,000 Americans each year. Melanoma occurs in the skin’s deeper layers and targets the melanocyte cells that produce skin pigment, or melanin. Melanin is the skin’s natural protectant from sun exposure. Caught early, recovery from this invasive form of skin cancer is quite good. The 5-year survival rate is 91% for melanoma victims. However, melanoma often goes undetected in its early stages and can be an aggressive spreader.
When you are a mother, receiving a cancer diagnosis is magnified by the effect it will have on your children and the possibility that cancer may take you from your children before either of you are ready to let go. Cancer is no longer the death warrant it once was. Great strides have been made in treating and arresting cancer. There is real cause for hope even when a terminal diagnosis is received or standard treatments fail.
Issels Integrative Oncology Centers in Santa Barbara, California and Tijuana, Mexico have had considerable success using advanced science-based alternative cancer treatments to achieve long-term cancer remissions in patients who had been considered “incurable.” (Click here to here Issels’ patients share their cancer stories.) But despite the very real possibility of remission, cancer outcomes are often unpredictable. Many mothers understandably choose to prepare for the worst while striving and hoping for the best.
Memories help us keep our loved ones alive in our hearts. You don’t have to face a terminal cancer diagnosis to find value in creating and compiling family memories. Even if you live to a ripe old age, your children, grandchildren and future generations will cherish the memories you leave behind.
To their children, mothers seem to be all-knowing, indestructible, invulnerable, the steadying rock that is always there, providing both rudder and anchor for young lives learning to navigate the world. Children can always count on their moms when they need a snack, a playmate, a bandaid and especially a hug. Moms banish monsters from closets, keep cookie jars well stocked, read bedtime stories, listen to prayers and kiss us goodnight. Unless they have cancer, then everything changes for their children.
Mothers with cancer are vulnerable. They are no longer indestructible and must be treated with care for cancer makes their bodies fragile. As Susan Grubar, a mother struggling with terminal ovarian cancer, shared recently on the New York Times Well blog:
“With varying degrees of fearful awareness, such children intuit that the mother who comforts by murmuring ‘I am here’ will not always be there. Under such circumstances, how to safeguard childhood or adolescence from anxious vigilance and dread? Mothers often stand at the center of their children’s orbit. How do you help children when mom has cancer?”
Grub is grateful that her ovarian cancer diagnosis came after her children were grown, though she mourns the fact that her relationship with her new grandson will be cut too short. Even as adults, she and her daughters are having difficulty with the finality of cancer and the separation anxiety terminal cancer produces. She is grateful that she has had many years to build precious memories with her daughters that will sustain them after she is gone — a gift many mothers with cancer are never given.
The beauty of utilizing therapies based on the creative arts in alternative cancer treatment is that they require no talent, just the willingness to express oneself. Creative therapies focus not on the quality of the completed artistic endeavor, but on the expression of emotion and the psychological release it brings. In participating in therapies that promote artistic self-expression, cancer patients are able to develop a heightened sense of self-awareness and insight, control stress and anger, resolve personal conflicts and improve their sense of well-being and quality of life. The positive effect of creative therapies on healing can be pronounced.
The creativity of artistic expression has been linked to the release of certain stress-relieving and pleasure-producing neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain. As reported in Medical Daily, creative arts therapies embrace all forms of art:
Art therapy. The ability to give visual representation to their emotions through art can improve both the psychological and physical health of cancer patients.
Dance therapy. Engaging in expressive and uplifting exercise through dance promotes greater mind-body awareness and stress relief.
Drama therapy. Cancer patients were able to relieve stress, emotional anxiety and anger effectively through dramatic interpretation resulting in improved self-esteem and a more positive outlook on life.
Music therapy. Creating or listening to music can decrease depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia. During radiation treatment, music is often used to help alleviate nausea and vomiting.
Writing therapy. Cancer patients often find the ability to express their fears and feelings cathartic. Keeping records of symptoms, reactions and interactions with their cancer treatment team can also give cancer patients a sense of empowerment and control over their disease.
Cancer is a disease of the physical body, but it permeates every aspect of life, coloring the way we think and feel and even how we relate to ourselves and others. Many cancer patients are so overwhelmed by the burden of cancer that they feel as if they have lost control not only of their health and body but of life itself.
Conventional cancer treatments that focus on treating the body fail to address the emotional, psychological and what some might call the spiritual forces that can have an even greater impact than physical health on an individual’s ability to fight and survive cancer. Alternative cancer treatment centers like Issels Integrative Oncology recognize the power of the mind-body connection to promote healing.
Issels cancer treatment teams take a holistic approach to cancer treatment that nurtures the complete individual. We employ advanced science-based treatment protocols to address the physical aspects of cancer while building up the individual’s immune system and nurturing each patient’s emotional health. We want our patients to leave us with a renewed sense of well-being and hope so they can focus on healing.
Employing the creative arts to aid cancer patients in expressing their emotions and conquering their fear of cancer is one of the alternative cancer therapies that are finding success in helping cancer patients strengthen the mind-body connection that promotes wellness. The use of art, dance, drama, music and writing therapy has been remarkably successful in helping cancer patients manage the stress of treatment, achieve a more positive attitude about cancer outcomes, achieve a higher state of wellness that promotes recovery and increase post-cancer life expectancy.