A woman points her finger at a flaming spot on her head.

Why Worrying At a Spot is Not Helpful

To worry at something: to pull, twist, or bite (something) repeatedly
“The dog was in the corner worrying at a bone.”
(Merriam-Webster)

Do you ever worry about a suspicious spot? I do it more than I should admit. Another way of saying it is just plain picking. But worrying has the benefit of showing that when we do it, we may be worrying about something worth worrying about. Not necessarily consciously. It’s like the man stroking his beard. He may be doing it because he’s nervous or because he’s thinking deeply about something. Or worrying.

A spot on my scalp

In any case, lately, I have been worrying at a raised spot on my scalp. This of course makes it worse. The part of the definition above that applies to a dog – biting something repeatedly – obviously does not apply to us humans. But I have been pulling and even twisting it. On a practical level, this is totally non-productive and only makes it worse. The pulling dislodges it somewhat. I vow to leave it alone. But then my hand goes up into my head and I want to see how the pesky spot is doing. Since I have pulled on it already, it is a prime target. I worry at it some more.

This isn't the first time

I have had squamous cell carcinomas on my scalp, so I know that this is a possibility. I also know it could be a pre-cancer or actinic keratosis. Or it could be seborrheic dermatitis. I asked in a Facebook support group for Efudex users if anyone has ever treated their scalp. One person says she had something like this and had it biopsied, and it turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC. She says I should get it biopsied. Someone says to search the group for the word scalp. I go ahead and do it, and find that many people in fact do treat their scalp with the “chemo cream.”

I should talk to my doctor

I remembered that one of my dermatologists prescribed a shampoo, ketoconazole, and calling my doctor is on my to-do list. But in the meantime, I write a note in the online portal, Patient Gateway. If you have this kind of portal, it’s a handy thing to do. It is not in place of calling the office, but sometimes you can dash out the question while you are trying to find your telephone voice or gearing up to face the telephone system maze.

I opt to use the patient portal for now

I write: "Hello! I missed our appointment this month because I went to Worcester to see a specialist in nail dermatology about my fingernails. I couldn't get an appointment with you until August and I am wondering what you think about another raised spot on the top of my scalp. I (inadvertently of course) picked at it and asked some people who use Efudex if they ever used it on their scalp and they said their dermatologist said yes to do it. So I am wondering if I should try it and if so should I use the combination cream and if so is it for five days? I also have a ketoconazole and am wondering if I should try that instead.”

I made a mistake

My fingernails are a mess, but that is another story. In the meantime, I looked back and realized I had written “a ketoconazole” and not a ketoconazole shampoo. For a professional writer, this is embarrassing. I followed up with a note explaining that I meant the shampoo that treats fungus and seborrheic dermatitis.

What's on my scalp now?!

In the morning, I run my hand through my hair. I feel something sticky and gooey. “Now what?” I ask myself. I pull it through. I notice it is BLUE! Is it something else to worry at? No, it’s not. I realize that it is a gob of toothpaste. Don’t ask me how it got into my hair.

How do you handle finding a suspicious spot?

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