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More Patients Experience Complications After Skin Cancer Removal Procedures Than Doctors Anticipate

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Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., and that's even among young people. Thanks to inventions like the indoor tanning bed, as well as not wearing sunscreen when spending time outdoors, more people are putting their skin at risk of developing skin cancer. Nearly 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Americans each year; that's more than the number of prostate, breast, lung and colon cancers combined.

Although you've probably heard of melanoma most often, it isn't the only type of skin cancer. There are also basal and squamous cell cancers that affect the skin. These types of cancer are actually the two most common types of skin cancer, and doctors commonly treat them to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body where it would be harder to treat and potentially fatal. However, in a new study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Fransico, more patients complain of complications after being treated for non-melanoma skin cancers.

Common complaints included pain, slow healing and infections. In comparison to the number of patients who complained, only 3% of doctors reported complications after completing a procedure. To reach these results, the researchers followed 866 patients, primarily men, being treated for non-melanoma skin cancers. The researchers then sent questionnaires to patients for up to five years after the surgery. Thirteen percent reported a non-medical complication, such as issues with a scar or difficulty getting a follow-up appointment, while 14% said they experienced a medical complication such as pain, numbness, itching, problems with wound healing or infection. In comparison, the researchers found that just 3% of those patients were recorded as having problems in the doctors' charts.

The current study points to the need for doctors to provide adequate post-operative advice and information to patients. The same is true for patients in other healthcare settings; just because doctors have a certain expectation for what patients will experience, does not make this a reality. One of the researchers from the study, Dr. Eleni Linos, had the following to say about the results of the study:

If a quarter of Toyota customers were unhappy after service, they would take that very seriously–the same as if a quarter of Apple product buyers didn't like their purchases.

Really makes you stop and think about the importance that we place on our gizmos and gadgets and how well they meet our expectations and the totally different set of standards that are placed on the one lifelong "gizmo" that we have–our bodies.