Melanoma, the very word can strike fear, into the heart of anyone who knows even a little bit, about this form of skin cancer. If not caught early and removed, it can spread throughout the body. There is no cure or effective way, to treat melanoma at this time, making it the most deadly skin cancer. On December 30, 2015 I was admitted to the hospital for infusion treatments, for a status migraine. The hospital I use is a teaching hospital, so I am very familiar and comfortable, dealing with residents.
During my physical exam one of the residents noticed a small mole, above my left knee. He questioned me about how long it had been there, had it looked like this for very long, had anyone else been following it? The mole had been there for some time, yes it had looked like this for quite a while, and yes it had been followed by the Cancer Screening Program at our local hospital.
The resident did not like how the mole looked at all, he asked the nurse for a measuring tape and then took a picture of it with his cell phone. He asked me if I was okay with a Dermatology consult, which of course I was. This is the mole that raised the concern of the resident. As you can see it is quite small, almost an inch. The reason I call this a sneaky melanoma, is because it looks nothing like the horrible pictures, you see hanging in your doctor’s office. But the edges were a bit abnormal and that is a warning sign. Another reason I thought that I would be the last person to get skin cancer, is being a migraineur I avoid the sun like a vampire. Some of my medications make me more sensitive to sunburn and I always use sunblock.
December 31, 2015 the Dermatologist came in to do the consult and removed the mole, he was an extremely kind person, who talked me through every step of the procedure. He told me that he would call within one week, with the pathology results either way. This was a promise that he kept and the results were melanoma in situ early stages. I have to admit, this shook and scared me some, as it does most people when the thought of cancer looms in their mind. The next step was to excise the tissue around and under, from where the mole was removed.
This was done in clinic January 14, 2016, once again he explained everything he would be doing and why. Before doing the procedure, he did a complete skin check, making sure I had no other sneaky moles. At the time, I had toenail polish on, he told me to check my nail beds the next time I removed my polish, because there can be problems areas there as well. He also told me, that in the majority of cases, women tend to get melanomas on their thighs, which is where mine was.
During the procedure, the doctor made an excision about 3 inches long and 1 ½ inches deep. He said this was necessary to make sure to get all the tissue surrounding the area. Once again, he told me would call in about a week, when the pathology results were back. He again kept his promise, everything was clear, what a relief! I was to return in six months for a skin check, earlier if I noticed anything unusual. I’ve since had my six month, skin check with no problems and my next one year check is coming up.
THINGS TO DO TO AVOID SKIN CANCER
Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Do not burn.
Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Don’t forget your lips, use a lip balm with SPF.
Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
If you had even one bad sunburn as a child with blistering, it can double your chances of getting skin cancer. The number of moles you have also make a difference, in your chances of getting skin cancer. This being fifty or more, just continue to be aware of your body, we know it better than anyone. If you notice a mole that looks strange or different to you, make an appointment to see your doctor right away! They would rather see a hundred false alarms, than to miss a skin cancer! Be aware of medications that you are on, some can cause sun sensitivity. My husband and I took a trip to Florida, this past June for our Anniversary. I needed a wide-brimmed hat, so starting looking on Amazon. I was quite amazed to find, hats with SPF added into the material of many types of hats. What a wonderful way to shield your face and neck!
I truly hope you have found my story compelling and will take steps to avoid letting a sneaky mole bring cancer into your life!
Live with hope,