New Spots in Old Places
Keeping on top of my skin anomalies gets tiresome. Even as a skin cancer advocate, I willingly admit to all of you that it becomes a chore. Monthly self-checks are a vital part of making sure you catch skin cancers in their early stages, but it’s easy to become frustrated when new spots appear all the time. What’s even more disheartening is finding new spots in old places. I know that sounds a little strange. Let me explain.
A suspicious clear spot on my face
About ten years ago, I visited my dermatologist during the summer for a routine skin check. She was especially cautious with suspicious spots and frozen or biopsied multiple spots every 3-6 months. During that visit in particular, she froze about a dozen spots on my face and chest and took a biopsy under my left eye. She wasn't sure, but felt that the clearish bump just below my eyelid was indicative of basal cell carcinoma and wanted to make sure everything was alright.
After she biopsied the spot, cauterized it, and applied a small bandage, I was on my way. That spot turned out to be benign and needed no further treatment, but I was left for the next several months with a little redness and a tiny scar. The spot healed nicely and, thankfully, was nothing I needed to worry about. In fact, after about six months, I really forgot all about it. Makeup covered it up, and it never crossed my mind.
Not so fast
That was a decade ago, and last week it came back to haunt me. I haven’t been wearing makeup regularly since school has been out, and it was much easier to see the change under my eye. A couple of weeks ago, I began to notice some redness in the same spot that had been biopsied ten summers ago. Upon examining it more closely in the mirror, I could see that it had a clear and almost shiny center. I made a note to mention it to my dermatologist on my upcoming visit.
Back to examining the spot on my face
My dermatologist is good - he is focused and observant. Proof? The first words out of his mouth after greeting me were, “What’s that under your eye?” To which I responded, “I hope you can tell me because it’s in the same spot I had biopsied ten years ago.” He pulled out his handy dandy little magnifying glass - a dermatoscope - and said, “Yeah, I’d like to take that off to be sure.” And off it came.
There is always the chance the spot will again be benign - that’s my sincere hope. Then again, if my doctor and I just chalked it up to the last known biopsy and missed something, my situation would be much more dire down the road should this spot actually be cancerous. I have had melanoma in addition to basal cell carcinoma and am more than thankful that my doctor takes no chances.
Thorough skin exams are critical
Ten years have passed, skin cancer is a never-ending battle, and we might just be catching it in its early stages this time. While many people may balk at continued biopsies and cryosurgery, I like to play it safe. Monthly self-checks (even in places you have already had treatments and biopsies) are important. Lightning may not strike twice in the same place, but cancer sure can. It does get old, but it’s important to take the time to examine your skin and make notes for your dermatologist. Skin cancer isn’t a one-and-done deal. When in doubt, call it out.
How often do you speak to your family members about skin cancer?