Is Your Chronic Illness Hiding A Problem? The Importance Of Preventive Screenings

Is Your Chronic Illness Hiding A Problem? The Importance of Preventive Screenings

My hubby and I went for our skin cancer screenings on Thursday. The trip is a little over an hour each way, but since it’s close to where my parents live, they were able to meet us for a little shopping and lunch afterward, which definitely made the trip more pleasant.

I don’t like getting the skin screenings done — standing there in your underwear while the doctor goes over your entire body looking for abnormalities is not fun — but it’s one of those necessities.

He found something “suspicious” so of course, I had to have it removed. Once he numbed  the area, I didn’t feel a thing, except for the pressure where he was working. He’s really good, but unfortunately, the area he had to work in was right on one of my tender points.  About halfway through lunch I started developing a headache that didn’t go away until after I went to sleep last night, which I’m sure is due to the pressure (even though it wasn’t much) on that tender point.

Yesterday morning I woke up in the midst of a flare. Between the work on my back and the stress of the ride (I don’t do well in the car) my body had just had all it was going to take. I guess I don’t have to tell you I didn’t get a single thing done yesterday.

I started thinking, though, that even though these preventive screenings can be uncomfortable, and can even cause flares sometimes, they’re extremely important. They really do save lives.

I know a lot of us probably figure we go to the doctor enough already and don’t want to add more appointments to our already-full schedule, but routine screenings may be even more important for those of us in the chronic illness community than they are for others.

We get so used to living in pain each day, experiencing weird new symptoms all the time, and dealing with severe fatigue that we may just chalk up anything new going on with our bodies to our illness.

When the doctor was checking the suspicious area on my back he asked if I itched in that area; that specific area. Now I’m always reaching back there to scratch because it does itch a lot, but itching is another one of those weird things that happens with fibromyalgia, so I never gave it a second thought.

He said to me, though, “this is very important — does it itch right in this area?” Evidently, itching is a sign that it could be something other than just keratosis, and I would never in a million years have even thought to mention it to my regular doctor.

The good news is that because I went for my screening, if the biopsy reveals that it’s something to be concerned about, he caught it early and I can get it taken care of before it becomes a big problem.

Early detection, of course, is the goal of all preventive screening. The earlier the doctors can catch something, the more treatment options we have and often, the less invasive those treatment options have to be.

Preventive screening recommendations vary by age, so it’s important to talk with our primary care physicians to determine which screenings we need. Johns Hopkins has a convenient checklist of screenings, by age, that you might want to talk with your doctor about.

They may be a nuisance, or even uncomfortable, but preventive screenings can help us catch things early and keep us from overlooking something important because we think it’s “just another weird symptom” of our illness.

Do you think regular preventive screenings are important? Have you scheduled yours? Please share!








  1. I have had over 10 moles removed! This was all before fibro. Each time they came back, benign. I haven’t had a screening in some time for the exact reason of setting off a flare. Were you able to have that area graphed? How do they do that?

    1. He had a female technician in there who was taking notes on each section that he checked, whether it was just those keratosis spots, a mole, etc…. For the one spot, the tech took pictures of it then the doc took it off to send it for biopsy. If it comes back positive I may have to have something else done. He said even if it turns out to be something we caught it very early. Thankfully, my flare seems to have subsided today, so no long-lasting effects.😊

      1. Thank you! I don’t think it’s anything too serious if it’s anything….

  2. Oh yes. Just had a check with my doc and it’s amazing how some things I just assumed were my normal that she was interested in. Thank goodness she’s such a patient attentive doctor.

    1. Having a good primary care doctor is so important, isn’t it? They can help keep us straight when we start to assume everything’s related to our illness. I’m glad she’s checking further for you on the things she was concerned with.

  3. I think this is such an important point, so often we ignore symptoms because we assume its just another crazy fibro thing! But also I feel that doctors don’t listen when we do have problems for the same reason, if we were not chronically sick they would investigate that thing but with us it#s kind of ignored? I am glad to know there is a list for us to look things up on as well so thank you for that xx

    1. It’s a balancing act, isn’t it, learning to be aware of new symptoms but not freaking out over everything because so many strange symptoms occur with fibromyalgia? I’m sorry you’ve experienced a problem with things not being checked out. I’ve been extremely fortunate with my doctors so far and haven’t had that problem. I just had to switch doctors again because my last doctor left, so I’m hoping she’s going to be as good as my last couple…. I have my “get-acquainted” appointment with her next month, so I guess we’ll see.😁 Thanks for your comment!

  4. I’m glad you managed to factor in a little R&R with your parents, doing something like that can make a trip and such an appointment a little more tolerable. I’ve never had a skin screening, but it sounds like an incredibly beneficial thing if it’s offered. I’m glad the ‘suspicious’ skin intruder was removed, even though it doesn’t sound too pleasant with it being so sore.

    You are absolutely right, preventative checks and screenings can and do save lives. Nothing is perfect and it may not pick up everything every time, but it’s better than nothing and worth the hassle or discomfort. I felt like same with having a smear done again last year because that time it picked up on high grade changes; I was put under general anaesthesia (physiological issues meant it was too dangerous while I was awake but usually it can be done with just a little numbing of the area) to deal with it; that made me incredibly grateful to have gone. And picking up something else unrelated perhaps at the same time is a bonus.

    When do you get your biopsy results, Terri? And how are you doing today, are you feeling like you’re coming around from yesterday’s flare?

    1. You’re so right – being able to hang out with my parents for a while made the trip a good one. We enjoyed getting to spend a little time with them.

      I’m glad you were able to get those changes taken care of right away. It’s so important to catch them early if we can.

      Thanks for asking about how I’m doing and when I get my results. I feel a lot better today, so the flare was short-lived. I just think those nerves got stirred up and needed a little time to settle back down.😊 I should get my results back in a week or two. If it is anything, I don’t think it’s going to be anything serious, but better safe than sorry.

      Hope your weekend is going well and that you’re getting some relaxation in. Hugs!

      1. I’m glad the flare has settled a bit. Keep us posted when you get your results back, Terri?

        I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are at the moment, but it’s freezing here in the UK so I’m wrapped up in countless layers and after being productive for a few hours (and maybe overdoing it a bit) I’ve taken to snuggling in bed with painkillers, a hot water bottle & lots of tea. I also hope you’re getting some relaxation in this weekend =]

      2. I’ll keep you posted Caz, thanks!

        It’s frigid here too. We have a cold front coming in and tomorrow morning’s “feels like” temperature is supposed to be 7 below zero Fahrenheit. I don’t know what it equates to in Celsius, but trust me when I say I’m not going to even step out the door if I don’t have to.😁

        I’m sorry you’re in more pain than usual, dear friend. I hope the painkillers, tea, and hot water bottle do their job, and that it eases up soon. Sending love and gentle hugs!

  5. I wouldn’t say our health care system is so helpful when it comes to pre-screening for skin cancer. Other things, yes, but only if there is a history, or particular concern. Here is where out of pocket care is useful. I have asked my doctor often about new moles, but she shrugs it off. Your post is helpful.

    1. Wow, that’s unfortunate, V.J.. My primary care physicians always ask me about several preventive screenings every time I go to make sure I’m keeping up with them – dentist, eye, mammogram, etc.. I don’t think they ever ask about the skin cancer screening, but I’m very pale and have had a couple of Basel Cells removed, so I make sure I go to a specialist and get them done. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by T.S.! I’m so glad to hear that you’ve survived 13 years so far since your diagnosis. Going to the doctor is definitely not one of my favorite things either, but the older I get the more important I realize it is…. Blessings to you!

  6. So true! You’ve reminded me that my skin check is long overdue, it’s back on the priority ‘to do’ list now!

    1. Thanks for sharing – I’m glad this served as a reminder for you! I know it’s one of the things that I always think I can push off until later, especially if I have a lot of other things going on, but I know they’re important. I hope yours all clear. Blessings to you!

  7. I hope you are feeling better today Terri and those results come back good. I do not know where or indeed if there is preventative screening in Donegal, but I shall add a search to my to do list.

    1. Thanks so much Brigid! Thankfully my flare only lasted a day, so I was very fortunate. I hope you’re able to find out about preventive screenings there. I know that here, for the skin cancer screenings we usually go to a dermatologist’s office. We actually go to a procedural medicine doctor for ours because he has treated my Pop for various skin issues over the years.

  8. Great article. I have a gig working with people who develop electronic tools for preventative clinical guidelines. I’ve been addressing issues of equity and bias in guideline authorship and implementation. I’m looking at system, clinical, and patient bias. You’re article presents a bias across all 3 domains. Patients might not think they need preventative screening because they have enough with their chronic illness. Same for clinicians plus clinicians might not consider routine issues could be causing symptoms. As my PCP says, you may have MS, but your still an old white man, with old white man issues (actually, I’m paraphrasing. She didn’t say it like that.) You’re making think more about it.

    1. Thank you so much Danny! Your work sounds really interesting. Your doctor knows what she’s talking about, doesn’t she? I think too often we ascribe whatever issue we might have to “just another symptom of our illness.” Our routine screenings can help mitigate our having to suffer the consequences of that thought process because they can catch problems we don’t even realize we have. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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