Biopsy and Freezing and Surgery? Oh My!
The long Thanksgiving holiday was really good. My youngest daughter was home from college for five days, and she and I got to spend a lot of time together. My Christmas decorations are up, and it’s the start of a most wonderful season. But by 8:15 this morning, I’d already had a biopsy and two places treated with liquid nitrogen at my dermatologist’s office. This isn’t exactly an ideal ending to a wonderful weekend, nor a great beginning to a work week.
New skin spots
I knew going into my six-month checkup this morning that I would be having a biopsy. About five weeks ago I had a new spot appear, and it looked to me like one that I’d end up pointing out to my dermatologist at my upcoming appointment. The funny thing about having skin cancer is that you learn to know your skin. I’ve had skin cancer for over twenty years, and I do frequent skin checks....as in basically, every time I look in a mirror.
Not surprisingly, when I pointed out the area to my doctor this morning, she said she would be doing a biopsy on it and asked if I wanted to go ahead and schedule the surgery to remove it before year end. I suggested we wait until the biopsy results come back – hope springs eternal, yes? I’m hoping (most likely naively) that it turns out to be something that doesn’t require surgical excision.
Cryotherapy and skin cancer
What I didn’t expect this morning was for my doctor to zap two precancerous areas with liquid nitrogen (also known as cyrosurgery). I’m the type of person who likes to research treatment options and know what to expect with a procedure. This was the first time I had a precancerous area frozen, and although it was very fast, it hurt! Thankfully, the pain from that didn’t last long because the pain from the biopsy soon started thereafter, once the numbing shot wore off. My drive to work after the appointment wasn’t much fun, and there was no one with me to feel sorry for me.
Researching cyrosurgery & actinic keratosis
Once I got to work, I did some quick research on cyrosurgery (or cyrotherapy). What I learned about the process is that it is used more often for actinic keratoses (precancerous areas) than for actual skin cancer. However, a doctor may decide to use cyrosurgery for cancerous areas for various reasons, including if there are multiple areas to be need treated or if it’s a first time that skin cancer has appeared in that particular area. Once treated, the area will then form a scab, and should then heal within three to six weeks. The promising data regarding cyrosurgery is that in a study, it had a cure rate for 99 out of 100 people five years after treatment, according to WebMd.com.1
Even though I wasn’t expecting to have cyrosurgery done today, it sounds like my doctor made the right call. And the good news? By having two quick procedures this morning, I’m still winning this skin cancer battle!
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