After my diagnosis and surgery, I got a lot of questions. Most, if not, all went like this. “What happened to your arm?” followed by “Oh, that’s too bad, can you look at this mole I have?” Thus, I began my career as an amateur dermatologist, which began my career as an amateur referral agent TO dermatologists. I would tell others to open their Yellow Pages (Yes, this was before the Internet) and find a local doctor to help them. I never wanted to give anyone a false diagnosis, but I always wanted to be helpful.
Back in the day
In the early days (late 80’s and early 90’s), I was instructed to look for dark moles that had
changed, were asymmetrical, and/or raised and to see a dermatologist regularly. Oh, and I needed to stay out of the sun and wear sunblock, especially on my nose (Somehow my nose was closer to the sun?) These have been helpful general guidelines (the nose part I still don’t
understand) to follow and I would recommend that this is a place to start, but most
recommendations today are much more involved.
New ways to think
I just read an online article “7 Skin Cancer Warning Signs You Should Never Ignore” from written by A. Pawlawski, from Today.com, dated April 27, 2017. In the article Pawlawski (quoting numerous medical sources) makes several recommendations that go beyond the simple instructions that I was originally given.
According to the article, here are those warning signs that you may have skin cancer.
- You notice an ‘ugly duckling’ mole
- You notice a vertical dark streak on your nail
- You experience vision problems
- You have a pimple that won’t go away
- You notice a mole on the sole of your foot
- You experience changes after having a mole removed
- There’s a black spot inside your cheek
I suggest that you read the article for yourself and see a doctor if anything concerns you. The point I am making is that best practices have changed a lot over the years and seem to be evolving as new research and information become available. It is always wise to be an informed patient, citizen, consumer.
Ignorance is not bliss
When I began this journey I never dreamed that melanoma could be found under a toenail or on the sole of a foot. I never thought to check where ‘sun don’t shine.’ I didn’t realize that it could metastasize to vital organs and be mortal. Many people may still be ignorant to these things and ignorance regarding cancer is a very bad thing, especially when risk can be mitigated.
With the advent of the Internet educating the public is more convenient than ever, but there is always the danger that the message will be missed with the information overload we encounter every day. That is why focused, online communities are important not only in the dissemination of information but in having open and honest conversations about this horrible disease.
I have noticed that my skin checks at the dermatologist’s office are quite involved now and that inspires confidence in me. My doctor has this magnifying lens that he brings to his eye and looks at my skin. It makes his eyeball look huge! I ask a lot of questions and make sure that he is aware of the latest research and has done his homework. I have taken charge of my diagnosis and am doing the best I can to take care of the only body that I have. Knowledge is a good thing.
By the way, May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Be aware!