Sunday, 01 April 2012 00:00

Incapacity Planning Imperative for Melanoma Survivors

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Americans value the appearance and aesthetics of skin. After all, the appearance of one’s skin provides others with silent clues concerning age, vitality and health.

Unfortunately, the incidence of skin cancer is on the rise, especially among seniors. There are more cases of skin cancer per year than all forms of cancer combined. One in five seniors aged has had melanoma, and survivors are nine times more likely (compared to the general population) to develop melanoma again.

“Incapacity planning” is especially appropriate for melanoma survivors, because of the risk of future incidence. Due to the unfortunate rate of recurrence, planning for the disease – especially after surviving a bout with it once – is difficult, but smart.  It’s also expensive to fight the disease: $28,000 on average, according to at least one study.

Avoiding damaging ultraviolet rays can preserve your skin. As we grow older, skin loses its smoothness and elasticity and veins and bones become more noticeable. To an extent, this aging process is unavoidable. Most seniors know to take precautionary measures such as wearing adequate sunscreen, hats, and avoiding tanning beds.

A lesser known risk factor is tobacco. Researchers found that current smokers developed “squamous cell carcinoma” 3.3 times more frequently than non-smokers. Quitting reduced that risk down to 1.9 times, so it really never is too late to quit smoking.

A recent study found that 45% of individuals diagnosed with skin cancer were diagnosed by a dermatologist after setting up a direct visit based on a concern. Only about 14% were diagnosed after a visit for an entirely different reason. Just over 25% were referred to a dermatologist by a general practitioner. The key is to remain proactive. If you think something may be wrong, make an appointment.

Proper financial planning is a smart choice for families who have already courageously fought this disease once. Incapacity planning ensures loved ones that they do not have to suffer the delay, inconvenience, complexities, and expenses of the process called “living probate.”

Attending seminars and meeting with your local elder law attorney will provide you with vital information. Remember, “Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.”

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