I Am Tired of Skin Cancer
I’m in a mood today. This is unusual for me, because I’m typically a generally happy, upbeat person. But today, I am not. I think it has to do with the fact that, as I was scratching an itch on my arm this morning, I noticed two small areas that I haven’t seen before. They are red and slightly raised.
Vigilant for pre-cancer
I know to keep an eye on them. I know that I will point them out to my dermatologist at my next six-month skin check appointment. I also know that if I feel like I need to get in to see my dermatologist prior to my appointment, that option is available to me.
I trust my dermatologist
I know that I trust my dermatologist to do what is necessary with these spots, whether that means treating them with cryosurgery, or performing biopsies, or (as sometimes happens), telling me they are not areas that are concerning. I know that if they need treated, they will be treated.
So what is making me feel out of sorts? The answer is, the fact that they are there.
I am tired of skin cancer
To be honest, I am tired of skin cancer. I am tired of the continuing cycle of constantly watching my skin for suspicious areas. I am tired of wondering if an area that I find is going to turn out to be something that requires a surgery. I am tired of constantly seeing my scars; reminders of the numerous procedures I have had to go through to have skin cancer removed.
I'm usually right
I know that in my 27-year history with skin cancer, my track record of whether or not a suspicious spot turns out to be cancer runs higher than I would hope. Yes, I have quite a few areas of actinic keratosis that were able to be removed by freezing them, but I have also had quite a few areas that required surgery. I have had numerous excisional surgeries, a Mohs surgery, and an electrodessication and curettage (“scrape and burn”) procedure to remove a squamous cell carcinoma in situ. I had one surgery in which I had 23 areas of skin cancer removed. I had ten different areas with stitches after that surgery.
I am tired of biopsies, and I am tired of surgeries.
Almost half are cancerous
Trying to guess whether the two spots on my arm are cancerous wasn’t doing me any good, but it made me wonder how many biopsies taken result in a diagnosis of skin cancer. I did some quick research and didn’t find anything recent, but I did find an article from 2017 on the National Library of Medicine’s site that indicated based on a survey of almost 600 dermatologists who belonged to the American Dermatological Association, responses indicated that “the mean percentage of biopsies that were malignant was 44.5%.”1
Let's break it down
This was further broken down into multiple categories, with the results showing as: 22.7% were basal cell carcinoma, 12.0% SCC, 10.2% benign neoplasms, 10.0% nevi, 8.0% actinic keratosis, 7.6% seborrheic keratosis, 7.5% inflammatory disorders, 6.1% SCC in situ, 5.3% dysplastic nevus, 5.1% benign skin, 1.5% melanoma in situ, 1.4% melanoma, 0.9% lentigines, 0.8% other malignancies, 0.6% infectious, 0.2% not otherwise specified, and 0.1% atypical lesions.1
I'm not sure how to feel
Basically, I have nearly a 50-50 chance that a biopsy is going to show I have skin cancer. And if I do have skin cancer, the odds are higher that it is going to be basal cell carcinoma. This doesn’t necessarily make me feel any better, but it doesn’t make me feel any worse.
It's ok to not be ok
In my journey with skin cancer, I know that having a positive attitude is beneficial. Most days, I have that. For today, though, I’m going to allow myself to feel these emotions. Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m counting on that I will have a much better outlook.
What do you do when you're feeling tired of having skin cancer?
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