A woman marks her calendar for an important appointment on short notice.

An Extra Visit to My Dermatologist

I spend a lot of time thinking about skin cancer. When I look in a mirror, I can’t help but check my skin for any new or unusual spots. I wonder if a new bump on my skin is something to be concerned about, or if it will go away soon. I see my dermatologist every six months for a full skin check. I have a wonderful dermatologist, and she has told me that I can call her whenever I need her and can come in between 6-month checks if need be. So far, I hadn’t needed to, until now.

Worrying about seborrheic keratosis

I have a small area on my left side that my dermatologist has seen before, but has told me not to worry about. She said the area is seborrheic keratosis, which is a non-cancerous skin growth. I point it out to her almost every time I see her because it’s a funny-looking area to me, and each time she tells me the same thing.

What is seborrheic keratosis?

I was unfamiliar with the term ‘seborrheic keratosis’, and admittedly can’t even remember the proper name unless I’ve just looked it up. Basically, seborrheic keratosis areas are very common. The good news is that they don’t turn into skin cancer. The tricky part, though, is that they can look like skin cancer. They’re usually found on the face, shoulders, chest, abdomen, or back. Their edges (like on the one I have) can be irregular, which is usually something we are taught to watch out for. Their surface can be rough, or it can be smooth and waxy. Their color can range from light tan to brown or black.1

Seborrheic keratosis areas are rarely painful, but they can get irritated if rubbed by clothing. If they’re in an area easily accessible, people may tend to pick at them. This isn’t recommended though, as it could cause bleeding or even infection.

Taking action

So why did I make an appointment with my dermatologist between normal skin check appointments? Because I noticed one evening recently that my seborrheic keratosis area hurt. And it hadn’t hurt previously. When I looked at it, it looked to me like the color was getting somewhat darker. Even though my dermatologist had reassured me repeatedly this was “okay” to have, I still didn’t trust it. And now I was even more distrustful since it hurt. I was sure that my benign place had gone bad. I called my doctor’s office and told them I need to come in, and thankfully I got an appointment for just two days later.

Seborrheic keratosis removal

At the appointment, I showed my dermatologist the area. She examined it and again reminded me that it was seborrheic keratosis and was not cancerous. (I wonder if she gets tired of telling me this). I told her it had started hurting so she said she could freeze it using cryotherapy, which would make it fall off. Even though I dislike cryotherapy, I readily agreed because I wanted the place gone. Surprisingly, freezing in that area was much less painful than some other areas I’ve had it.

Worth the peace of mind

It was a quick visit, I got peace of mind without having to wait four more months for my scheduled checkup, and now the place will be gone. The lesson here is, if there is something on you that you are concerned about, be sure to tell your doctor at your checkup. And if necessary, don’t be afraid to call to get an appointment between regular checkups. You are, after all, your own best advocate.

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