Hear the word “cancer” from your doctor and you feel instant terror. Visiting the internet to do research can turn the toughest person into a terrified child. Especially when you look at the pictures.
15 years ago my Dad told me he had cancer, and my terrified inner child surfaced. Two and a half years ago when my 29 year-old daughter called to share that she had melanoma, my inner protective mom rose up, mixed with that terrified inner child. Thankfully my daughter is now cancer free.
Now it’s my turn. I have several instances of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), with surgeries scheduled next month.
As a teacher I feel the need to educate others on the disease. Basal cell carcinoma is the most curable cancer. It grows slowly and doesn’t spread to the blood stream or lymph nodes. It is not generally life threatening, unlike melanoma. What is a bit scary in this “looks conscious” world: BCC damages tissue as it grows, leaving scars. Surgery can exacerbate the scarring resulting in disfigurement.
This April I saw a dermatologist because a rash-like spot on my side began to hurt. This spot had been present for more than a decade. Years ago a GP physician in Texas told me it was nothing to worry about. I should have gotten a second opinion from a dermatologist. Chalk it up to human nature… we often hear what we want to hear, and avoid investigating further.
The silver lining for me is this: I finally got a diagnosis, and good information from a dermatologist. I have a BCC above my eye, on my side, and on my back. Also several pre-cancers around and about. I thought the spot above my eye was a pimple. Who knew?
The following information is not to scare anyone. It is presented to educate those who, like me had no idea what BCC looks like. This information is excerpted from a pamphlet on BCC provided by the American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org). I strongly suggest that you consult a medical professional for additional information.
What BCC looks like
BCC appears on the skin in many shapes and sizes. You may see a:
- Dome-shaped growth with visible blood vessels
- Shiny, pinkish patch
- Sore that heals, and then returns and can repeatedly heal and return
- Brown or black growth
- White or yellow waxy growth that looks like a scar
If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, immediately make an appointment to see your dermatologist. Tell the person who schedules the appointment why you want to see your dermatologist.
With skin cancer cases increasing every year, sunscreen and hats should be worn consistently as we enjoy the great outdoors.
I’m nervous for my upcoming surgeries. I’m also confident that thanks to the support of my friends and family, and state-of-the-art Mohs surgery (see literature) I will ultimately be fine.
Thanks for listening!