“You have skin cancer.” Those were the words the nurse said to me over the phone.
The nurse quickly went on to add that it was basal cell skin cancer which is treatable and non-life threatening.
I had gone to the dermatologist a week before because I had a questionable spot on my right shoulder that looked like a scar but the skin was starting to flake off. Nothing I did seemed to make it less itchy so I made myself an appointment to have it checked out.
The dermatologist looked it over and determined I needed a biopsy done so she numbed up the area and took a small piece of it to be sent off to a lab to be tested for cancer. So, when the nurse called to say it was basal cell cancer I was relieved it was not melanoma and that it was treatable.
I made an appointment to have the spot removed. It was a fairly painless procedure. They numbed me up and then performed a procedure called Curettage and electrodesiccation which basically meant the dermatologist scraped off the cancer cells and then burned the area. The scraping and burning process is repeated a few times to ensure it’s treated fully. My procedure took a total of about 10 minutes and was painless.
Post-treatment, I kept Vaseline on the area and covered it with a band-aid to speed up healing. I now have a small scar that will fade with time. There’s a small chance cancer could come back, so I will see the dermatologist every 6 months going forward.
So, how do you know if you have skin cancer?
Make it a regular habit to check your skin, just like you check your chest for lumps monthly. Make sure to check your back, between your toes, your behind, and your armpits. Look for spots on your skin that are asymmetrical, have ragged edges, a diameter larger than 6 mm, or a spot has changed shape, size, or color.
If you aren’t sure if it’s skin cancer, like me, seek out a dermatologist. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Early detection of skin cancer can save your life.
How can you prevent skin cancer in you and your kids?
Avoid tanning beds.
Find shade. Especially during peak sunlight hours.
Apply sunscreen regularly. Use SPF 15 or higher sunscreen. Remember, babies younger than 6 months should not wear sunscreen, so keep them out of the sun. Reapply regularly especially if you have been in the water. Remember, to apply to your face, feet, and ears which we can often overlook.
Avoid getting sunburned. Remember, UV rays can penetrate even on a cloudy day and result in a burn. Pack sunscreen and apply regularly if you are going to be outside for an extended amount of time.
Wear protective clothing. Rash guard swimsuits can help protect your skin. Don’t forget to protect your eyes too by wearing UV protective sunglasses and a hat will help protect your scalp and face.
How do you find a dermatologist?
Ask your doctor for a referral. Check your insurance, some may require a referral to see a specialist like a dermatologist.
Ask a friend. I found my dermatologist through word of mouth recommendation and often those are the best kinds of recommendations.
There are different kinds of skin cancer each with their own treatments. A dermatologist will be the best trained to know how to best deal with any cancer that might pop up.
Going forward, I will definitely keep a better eye on my skin and do monthly skin checks to make sure nothing has changed shape or color as well as visit my dermatologist every 6 months. It’s important as a mom to take care of ourselves so we can take care of everyone else.