2 Skin Checks, 2 Biopsies, and 1 Excision
After working as a community lead on SkinCancer.net for a few months, I decided it was definitely time for a skin check. Reading about the risks and effects of skin cancer every day can really light a fire under you. I won't even admit how long it had been since my last appointment. I scheduled an appointment with a nearby dermatologist and surprisingly, didn't have to wait long. The skin check was quick and easy. Maybe too easy?
A second opinion
While I'll admit I've become slightly paranoid about my skin, I truly felt the skin check was not thorough enough. It felt rushed and I had forgotten to point out a few specific moles that have changed over the last couple of years. I have thousands (okay, I'm exaggerating) of moles and freckles and was concerned the dermatologist didn't get a close enough look at some of them. After sitting on it for a few months, a friend recommended another local dermatologist. Calling the office kept falling off of my to-do list, but I finally made a second skin check appointment.
The second skin check
This dermatologist did a much more thorough exam and I was prepared with notes about every spot and mole I was concerned about. She said most of the spots I pointed out were not a cause for concern - one was even just a popped blood vessel. But she found two moles that raised red flags. One was a dark mole on my shoulder, that I knew might be trouble. The other was a small asymmetrical mole on my back that I wasn't even aware of.
Next step: biopsies
She explained that they categorize the results by 'mild', 'moderate', and 'severe' - based on the volume of atypical cells. 'Mild' was the best-case-scenario and required no further action but ongoing monitoring. 'Moderate' or 'severe' would require surgery and testing.
The biopsy results
The office called about a week later with the results. The one on my back came back as 'mild', and no further action was needed. But the one on my shoulder came back 'moderate' and would require an excision surgery to ensure they get the atypical cells that could turn into precancer cells. I've had an excision surgery once before which left me with a large, not-so-pretty scar on my leg, so I wasn't too excited to have the same scar on my shoulder. However, having a scar is a much better alternative to skin cancer!
My excision experience
Schedule your skin check!
So, even though I ended up with a couple of scars from my second opinion, I'm very relieved my dermatologist was thorough and spotted these areas. I'd much rather address trouble areas now than deal with advanced skin cancer later!
Please schedule regular dermatologist appointments for your own health, and encourage loved ones to do the same! And if you aren't satisfied with the results of your skin check, go with your gut and seek a second opinion.
Do you check the UV index before leaving the house?