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Another Cancer, Another Specialist, Another Scar…

PSA time! Did you know your skin is your body’s largest organ? May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month. If you think skin cancer isn’t a big deal, think again. Speaking from experience here. Yep. Another cancer. Another specialist. Another scar.

Right off the bat, I want to say this new cancer is nothing to worry about. It is, or was, merely a pesky skin cancerous growth. And as skin cancers go, it was merely of the basal cell carcinoma variety. Basically a nuisance, a low on the totem pole sort of cancer.

Still, it’s another thing to worry about. It’s another dart thrown by cancer that literally hit the bull’s eye — my face. It might not be a serious sort of cancer, but nonetheless, it is another cancer, another scar and yet another specialist to add to my ever lengthening list of medical specialists.

Ugh…

I even hesitated to write/share this post because it’s not a big deal. Even the nurse at my new dermatologist’s office said, “Well, if you’re going to get a cancer, this (basal cell, not talking about melanoma!)  is the kind to get.”

When have we heard that before?

But in this case, it’s probably true. Still, medical people should not say that sort of thing. Ever.

And then she went on to ask (I’m sure she later regretted asking), “Have you ever had any other cancer?”

Let’s just say, the conversation took a downturn and there was that look of, oh you poor thing, in her eyes.

Have you seen that look?

But that is a post for another day.

I decided I would share about my skin cancer, even if it is/was only basal cell carcinoma because it is important. It does matter. It might not be life threatening, but it can be serious over time if left untreated.

There are three kinds of skin cancers:

Basal cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma

Melanoma

As a person who is BRCA2+, I am at higher risk for any or all of these. And now that I’ve had one, the odds for more rises. Click on the above links to learn more about the three kinds of skin cancers. I’ve certainly learned a lot about all three.

Again, if basal cell cancers are not treated, or removed, they keep growing and over time, this can create problems. Eventually, the tumors can potentially become embedded in places they don’t belong, damage nerves and/or bone, interfere with vision (a concern in my case), become ulcerated or infected and of course, just get uglier and uglier to look at.

The “upside” is that basal cell cancers very rarely metastasize or spread to other areas of the body. My particular cancer was located on the very delicate skin under my eye, which btw, made no sense, as this area has been most consistently covered (by sunglasses) through the years than other areas of my face. So go figure.

At my last oncology appointment, my oncologist and I discussed a different spot on my nose, and he suggested I see a dermatologist to get it checked out. Turns out, that spot was fine. That other one, not so much.

So you just never know. When in doubt, get checked out.

Bottom line — check your skin regularly. Have your partner (if you have one) do it too. Be sure your primary care physician examines your skin at your physicals as well. Sometimes, this gets missed or bypassed because everybody’s in a hurry, and it’s one more potentially embarrassing exam.

If you’re BRCA+ like me, I suggest seeing a dermatologist for a comprehensive skin exam and see what she or he recommends for follow up. I will now be seeing one every six months to start with.

We should all be more mindful about sun exposure.

This doesn’t mean stay out of the sun. It means protect yourself because now we know how much it matters.

My new mantra before leaving the house now is:  Sunscreen. Cap. Sunglasses. Repeat. Daily.

And what’s one more scar, right?

NOTE:  For anyone interested, my tumor was removed using the Mohs surgery method, so check that out if you want to.

Have you ever had any sort of skin cancer, or do you know someone who has?

Regardless if you’ve had a cancer diagnosis or not, do you take more precautions regarding your sun exposure these days?

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skin-cancer-surgey

The post-Mohs surgery selfie.

post-mohs-surgery

Recovering with a kitty on your lap & a Starbucks coffee within reach always helps.

After Moh's surgery

Not pretty, but cancer never is.

My new mantra.

I will be doing these things from here on out. Image via Melanoma Research Alliance 

Sue

Friday 28th of January 2022

My mother has skin cancer. She regularly, so it seems, is having spots removed, and in one instance, surgery on her forehead. I had a precancerous spot on my cheek treated last year. I see a dermatologist yearly. So sorry you needed to deal with this.

Nancy

Friday 28th of January 2022

Sue, I'm sorry your mother has had to deal with skin cancer. Glad to hear your spot was treated and that you see a dermatologist regularly. One more thing, one more doctor to deal with I guess. Thank you for reading, taking time to comment and for your kind words.

Betty

Wednesday 20th of May 2020

Yes, I have had skin cancer. I thought it was a spider bite on my healthy breast. Talked to my GP, he suggested seeing a dermatologist. After the biopsy I had the spot removed. Not a big deal after breast cancer. Another yearly Dr. appointment. It does get old, right?

Nancy

Friday 22nd of May 2020

Betty, Yes, it sure does! Good to hear from you. Hope you're doing well.

anne

Monday 3rd of October 2016

This is a question related to AI etc. I cannot take tam or letrozole, so today my onc gave me aramasin. I asked questions, he said 'they are all the same,' as he left the room. Useless he is. Anybody take it? I am in the process of working up the courage to take the first one. (anaphylaxis with the others)

Nancy

Tuesday 4th of October 2016

Anne, I am taking Aromasin. Doing okay on it. Some issues, but way better for me than Arimidex was. But of course, we are all unique in how we tolerate these drugs. Good luck to you.

Cancer Curmudgeon

Wednesday 28th of September 2016

One thing upon another, right?! I was afraid to read this one--skin cancer is the one I figured I'd get, having already had some moles removed at a much younger age. I'm fair, I'm covered in freckles and moles, and I live at the beach. Talk about risk factors! I know over-diagnoses is the buzzword and cool concept right now in medicine, but I don't think that should apply with skin cancers--not for me anyway. At any rate, good to know you are doing OK--just adding docs to your contact list--sigh. xo

Nancy

Wednesday 28th of September 2016

CC, I'm pretty fair-skinned as well, so I wasn't entirely surprised, but like I wrote about, I thought it was the spot on my nose that was problematic. Sounds like you do have some risk factors, so be sure to wear your sun screen, sun glasses and hat my fair-skinned, ocean-side residing friend. :) Thank you for reading and sharing.

Eileen@womaninthehat

Sunday 18th of September 2016

Nancy, I can't believe you've had to deal with this. Even though you're okay and your life isn't threatened, I can't imagine after all you've been through having to hear those words again: You have cancer. But here you are. I'm glad you came through okay. "Still here" status in cancerland is a great place to be. Heal and be well soon.

Nancy

Sunday 18th of September 2016

Eileen, Yes, here I am, here we are, right? "Still here" status is a great place to be for sure. Dear hubby and I sometimes joke around about my body being carved up and carved out in too many ways to count, but of course, it's no joke, and we are both sick of cancer on so many levels and for so many reasons. Thank you for reading and for your good wishes. xx

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