What Are the Odds?

I’m not a big fan of going to the doctor. Sometimes, though, I don’t have a choice. When I have a suspicious area on my skin, I make sure I get to the dermatologist’s office to have it checked. I also see my dermatologist regularly (every six months) for skin checks. And every day, I examine my skin for anything that might look out of the ordinary or worrisome.

Putting off the doctor's appointments

I focus so much time on dealing with skin cancer that the last thing I want is to see more doctors, so I’ve been putting off some routine checkups. I’m good about seeing my dentist and eye doctor yearly, and I have a yearly mammogram, but other checkups I’ve delayed – until a month or so ago. I decided it was time to schedule all necessary visits, and within just over a month’s time I will have gone to every doctor that I should for wellness checks. So far every checkup has gone well, thank goodness.

Skin cancer scars at a mammogram

A couple of days ago, though, I had my yearly mammogram. The technician inquired about the scars on my chest and I told her they are from excisional removal of skin cancer, which she noted in my file. Thankfully the procedure only took a matter of minutes, even though I opted for the 3-D mammogram this year. Once it was done, I was on my way and expected to receive a letter in the mail in a couple of weeks telling me all was well, as has been the case every other year.

Needing a follow-up mammogram

The very next morning, though, I had a voicemail from an overly-cheery sounding person asking that I call my doctor’s office for my results. I thought that was unusual, but I have a new-to-me family physician and thought maybe that was her office’s procedure. (Ignorance is bliss, yes?) I called, and was told by a member of the office staff that my film showed a spot and I need to go back for a more in-depth mammogram. The follow-up mammogram was scheduled for three business days later. It didn’t escape me that scheduling a routine mammogram may result in an appointment 3-4 weeks out, but a follow-up test can be scheduled within a matter of days. But the more I think about it, I’m glad of that – I’d rather not have to wait a few weeks for the next test.

What's the risk of having other cancers after skin cancer?

The ‘spot’ may be something, or it may be nothing, but it made me think of our community members on SkinCancer.net who have commented that they’ve had various types of cancer after having skin cancer. So, being the fact finder that I am, I googled whether having non-melanoma skin cancer (which is what I’ve had for over 20 years - basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma) increases one’s risk for other types of cancer. And what I found is that it can. As is typical with internet research, though, the results were kind of mixed. One site said that in women, having non-melanoma skin cancer increases the risk of breast cancer by 20%, lung cancer by 32%, and melanoma by more than double. Another site indicated there was a general increase in the risk of getting other types of cancer after having non-melanoma skin cancer, but that studies weren’t consistent in taking into account all factors that may change results. And yet another stated that there is an increased risk of other types of cancer, but the increases did not rise to the level of statistical significance.

Hoping the odds are in my favor

The odds are hopefully in my favor that the suspicious area that showed up on the mammogram is nothing, but I did learn that the odds of people who have had skin cancer getting other types of cancers are most likely increased. While this is something I’d rather not think about, it is important to think about this, so I can do everything in my power to try to keep all of me healthy, not just my skin. Wishing you, and me, good health.

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