Skin Cancer Can Be Disfiguring
Far too many people think that skin cancer is no big deal. After all, it’s "just" skin cancer, right? Those of us who have had skin cancer know this is not true. In this community, we have had posts and discussions about the scars from skin cancer surgeries. We discuss how to best treat surgical areas to minimize scarring, how to treat skin cancer scars to minimize their appearance, and how to conceal scars.
Learning to accept skin cancer scars
For the most part, I am okay with my scars. I have had a few skin cancer scars over the years that I wanted to conceal for various reasons when they were still in their bright-red stage. Overall, though, I have accepted that scars are a part of my skin cancer journey.
Let's talk about disfigurement
One thing we don’t talk as much about is the permanent disfigurement left by skin cancer surgeries. I have several permanently disfigured areas due to skin cancer surgeries. I have a dip in my lower leg where a good portion of tissue was removed. I also have the same thing on one of my thighs. Those areas don’t really bother me.
There's one thing that really bothers me
The area that does bother me, though, is a result of two separate surgeries to remove skin cancer. About six years ago, I had a major skin cancer surgery to remove multiple cancerous areas. During that surgery, I had 23 areas removed. Ten of those areas required stitches. One of the areas that required stitches was right above my lip. I thought perhaps I'd be left with a standard skin cancer scar.
My plastic surgeon warned me
I had a small area of basal cell carcinoma that would bleed and then scab over, but it would never fully heal. After the surgery was over, my plastic surgeon told me that he'd had to move a nerve above my lip because skin cancer had grown around it. He warned me that I would be numb in this area, perhaps for a year or so until the area fully healed but perhaps permanently.
I noticed it, but maybe others didn't
I was left with permanent numbness in my upper left lip. What I was also left with, even though I had an excellent surgeon, was an upper lip that was now slightly off-center. This made my smile a bit crooked. Even though I noticed my off-center lip every time I looked in the mirror, it was relatively minor and most people probably didn’t even notice it.
I had to have another surgery
Last year, though, I had to have another surgery in the same vicinity. This was a Mohs surgery to remove an infiltrating basal cell carcinoma that was right under my nose. The surgeon had to cut my face from the mid-nose area into my upper lip, and it took three rounds of surgery to remove all of the cancer.
My lip is even more off-center now
I lost some of my upper lip during that surgery. The surgeon had to reconstruct my lip, and I’m sure he did the best job he could but my slightly off-center lip is now really off-center. I’ve “exercised” the area, moving my lip up and down and back and forth to try to get it to naturally move as it used to when I smile, but I still have to consciously think about raising that side of my lip if I want to have a normal looking smile.
A cautionary tale
Thanks to the years I spent damaging my skin by tanning, including in tanning beds, I now have a lip that is permanently disfigured. I realize this is purely cosmetic and that things could be a lot worse, and I’m glad the skin cancer is gone, but people need to realize that it’s not "just" skin cancer. These skin cancer scars can change how you look permanently.
Have you experienced disfigurement as a result of skin cancer? If you're comfortable doing so, share with us in the comments
Have you taken our Beyond the Cancer Diagnosis Survey?