Archive | March 10, 2013

Skin Cancer Too? Really?!

Photo Credit: nation.com.pk

So the week before last I had some biopsies done.  I had postponed this followup visit to the dermatologist for, oh, about a year and a half.  Yep, I know.  But I’m sure you get it.

The previous two visits had ended with biopsies, some rather large and deep.  The results were mixed — some of my sacrificed moles were fine, others had pre-cancerous cells.

When my first 6-month followup came around, I canceled because, well, I was tired.  I had just finished radiation and was getting weekly infusions of Herceptin that my body wasn’t reacting well to.  And I was spending plenty of time at the hospital and Cancer Center. I just couldn’t deal with one more thing.  Then I just never bothered to reschedule.

So last month I finally picked up the phone and called.  Fast forward to my appointment.  They did a quick once-over, saw some areas of concern, and then scheduled me to come in for biopsies the following week.  I reluctantly but dutifully returned and got a bit nervous when there were two doctors, a nurse, and a tray of scalpels in the room.

It was less involved than it had been on previous occasions.  I was on my side when they took the mole that was on the fringe of my chest radiation field.  After cutting it out, the doctor stitched it up quickly, but I could feel the blood dripping down my back.  They scrambled to get it cleaned up as I mentioned that I was on aspirin therapy so I was a bleeder.

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Photo Credit: dermnetnz.org

They then moved to the lesion on my forehead.  This was the one that had concerned me for months.  It didn’t look like much, but every time I washed my face, even gently, it bled.  I thought this was odd and it was really what had inspired me to schedule the appointment.  The three doctors I saw the first week agreed and mumbled something to each other about act-something keratosis turning into cancer.  And then the two new doctors on biopsy day were mumbling the same thing to each other after looking at it with their special little scope-y things.  The the one turned to me and said it was likely actinic keratosis that became cancer, but I didn’t pay much attention.  I couldn’t have skin cancer, too.

When they got to my head, the numbing needles didn’t really do their job.  Thankfully it didn’t take too long.  But they couldn’t stop the bleeding.  Pressure wasn’t working, so the nurse passed aluminum nitrate (I thought they used to use silver nitrate?) to the doctors and they were finally able to stop it.  They taped me up and sent me home with an appointment card to have my stitches removed and receive my results in a week (last week).

I returned last week and was told that the area on my head is skin cancer.  They said that I would need to schedule my surgery with the Mohs or chemosurgeon at the hospital.  They asked me to head over there to schedule it in person.  Since I had the biopsies done at the hospital, this meant walking across the hall to the Mohs surgery department and the sole surgeon in our area who is trained to perform this type of surgery.

But that was still too long a walk for me at that moment, so I skipped out and went home.  I still haven’t scheduled the surgery.

I try to avoid feeling sorry for myself or dwelling on things that I can’t change.  But, really?  I mean it sounds like this one isn’t that big a deal, especially in comparison to the breast cancer, but I was a bit incredulous when they first told me.

I began wondering about statistics.  “What are the chances of having been diagnosed with two distinct types of cancer before the age of 37?”  I consulted the internet and still don’t know because I was sidetracked by the search results.  Turns out that it is not really understood why someone in this age bracket would develop one cancer, let alone two.

Well, I’ll just have to do my best to avoid a third.

P.S. Please do something for me.  Schedule a skin cancer screening — it’s quick and easy.  And you aren’t too young!

*** I am very sorry to say that a couple of months after I wrote this post, my little sister was diagnosed with MELANOMA, the deadliest form of skin cancer.  So I’d like to reiterate the “p.s.” above.  If you notice something that isn’t normal for you, be it a breast change, an odd-looking mole, or some other concerning symptom, please get it checked out.  It’s important, you are important, and you are not too young for cancer.