A Little Dab Will Do (for Treating Some Precancers)
Last updated: June 2023
I’m probably not the only one who gets a jingle or catchy phrase from a commercial stuck in their head. If it’s catchy and you don’t know what the commercial is FOR, then it obviously hasn’t served its purpose of making you want to buy the product. This can also happen with a compelling scenario. You might think, “Great commercial!” And then wonder, “But what was it for?” If it’s a blast from the past and you can’t match it with a product, it’s not such a big deal.
Applying my Efudex while singing an old commercial
The latter is what happened when I found myself looking in my bathroom mirror and saying, “A little dab will do ya.” I knew it was from a commercial but couldn’t remember which. So of course, I looked it up. And found that it was a 1965 commercial for the men’s hair cream, Brylcreem: “Brylcreem — A Little Dab’ll Do Ya! Brylcreem — you’ll look so debonair. Brylcreem — the gals will all pursue ya; they’ll love to run their fingers through your hair!” The phrase popped into my mind as I was looking at several spots that I knew I could treat with just “a little dab” of Efudex.
If you are new to using this chemo cream, you will probably use it when, and as, directed by your dermatologist. But since I have been doing this so long, we have an agreement. If I see something, I treat it. It is a little frustrating (OK, a lot frustrating) to see pre-cancers that I have treated reappear. At first, I thought they would just go away. But my doctors have told me that you just have to keep going at them. So I do. Sometimes I leave the doctor a note in our patient portal, Patient Gateway, and tell them what I have treated. Or I make a note and bring it to my next appointment. They say it is helpful, and it also helps me remember.
Dabbing as directed
The first little spot needing a little dab was on my chest. It is not even noticeable when you look there. But I noticed myself playing with the little raised spot. The next was on my forehead, a kind of gritty raised area that I had started to pick at. Then I looked at each wrist. Each was dab-worthy. The back of each calf was full of them. I can’t see them that well, but from the rough, raised feel, I know they are actinic keratoses. And I knew that on my upcoming visit, she would say to treat them. Dab, dab, dab.
Should I treat that spot?
A spot on the right side of my neck concerned and confused me. I thought I remembered either picking it or accidentally nicking it. It was itchy but also stung a little. I thought I remembered treating it, so I wasn’t going to do it again. I tried some cortisone cream for the itching, but it didn’t help. At this point I probably should have asked, but I kept at it myself. I thought maybe I had infected it. So I put some antibiotic ointment on. Still the same.
Asking my dermatologist
I decided it was time to send a note. I was scheduled for an appointment in about a month and asked if I should come in earlier. I described the characteristics of the spot. It was hard to get a good photo, but I used my phone to take a spot selfie.
A nurse wanted more details. “Would you be able to send an additional photo of the spot on your neck? When did you notice this spot? How long have you been treating it? Is it itchy, painful, bleeding, blistering, red or swollen?”
I replied, “It's very little and of those questions you asked, I'd say itchy and a little painful.
Tip: take a photo
I'll have to ask my son to take a photo when he visits tomorrow. It's been there for weeks. I think it might have a scab on it but I can't tell.”
NOTE: If you notice a worrisome area or spot on your skin, it’s a good idea to be not like me and write down the day you noticed it.
In any case, my son took the photo. While he was doing it, I asked if it looked horrible. (It’s off to the side where I can’t see it that well.)
I got a good look at it in the photo. It did look like a scab. I think that I have unconsciously touched it so much that it has stayed irritated. It’s just so annoying! I haven’t had a chance to send the photo. But when I do, I will include the true confession that I keep playing with it. I am thinking that the only dab it needs is a dab of being left alone. But I will have to see what they say.
Do you sunscreen in the fall?