Yesterday I went to the dermatologist for my bi-annual full body mole check (aka ‘cancer screening). I’ve had a few suspicious moles removed in the past so I have to go see the doctor every six months to make sure nothing new is happening.
The fun and games began when I was 28. As a blonde haired, blue-eyed woman with very fair skin, I am a prime candidate for skin cancer. Although truth be told, I didn’t go every six months from 28 until now. No, that would have been smart but I prefer to do important things the dumb way. I think I went every year for a couple years and then nothing until my 40’s. Fortunately nothing too drastic happened between my 30’s and 40’s; I feel very lucky.
I walked into the exam room feeling very confident and full of myself. I was sure that I’d be given a clean bill of health and sent on my merry way in about 10 minutes. I got undressed and sat with not much more than a smug look on the table.
Boy, was I wrong. The doctor came in and after a brief hello, she went right to work. A mole that had been removed back in August of 2013 had already grown back. That was the first bad news because when the biopsy came out the first time, it was precancerous. Well, I guess it was a little more cancerous than non since it had already returned. The doctor told me the mole on my back is a pre-basal cell carcinoma, and it needed to be surgically removed.
As the dermatologist is examining my face, she came upon a spot and asked, “How long have you had this scaly, dry patch?” I had no idea I even had a scaly, dry patch on my face so it could have been there forever and I wouldn’t have noticed it. The patch was on my left temple. The only time I even see that side of my face is when I’m applying make-up and even if I would have noticed a spot to be dry, I wouldn’t have thought anything other than it’s a flakey spot that needs some moisturizer.
Wrong again! The dermatologist told me it was a pre-squamous cell carcinoma, and she was going to burn it off right that minute. And she did. Holy smokes, one minute I’m lying there on the table getting my face looked over, and the next minute a silver can is coming at my face. I had no time to think about it. She told me it would hurt for a few seconds and then it would turn purple as it healed.
What I learned from this experience is that a dermatologist is going to be my best friend from this moment forward. I will gladly visit her every six months. Skin cancer is no joke and it is not only preventable but one of the few cancers where one needn’t die. And it isn’t just for older people either. An acquaintance at the Super Bowl party I attended told me her son has skin cancer. He is 20 years old. I have a 20 year old daughter, so I do what I can to make sure that my daughter gets her screenings done. She rolls her eyes at me but she has grown up in California with daily sun exposure. I grew up in the Mid-West and on the East Coast so my sun exposure was minimal and yet here I am getting things burned off and removed.
Call your dermatologist today and make an appointment for a full body mole check if you have moles or anything suspicious you want to have checked out. I am so thankful I went yesterday, and will continue to faithfully go every six months until the end of time.
Skin cancer will not be the disease that kicks me out of this world and into the other.