If I had known what a serious health issue skin cancer is, I would have taken simple measures to prevent it.
How it started: I woke up one morning with a ”pimple” just above the left side of my mouth. I didn’t think much about it, or even realize what a serious health issue this could be. The pimple went away, only to reappear the following week. This happened over and over; until, eventually, instead of healing completely, it would almost heal, and then start bleeding when I washed my face. After several months, I realized that this had gone on for a long time, and the spot had gotten significantly bigger.
I made an appointment with a reputable dermatologist, who took a biopsy of the tissue and checked my body for other affected areas. It took about three days for the results to come back. I had a squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer. It is usually caused by a lifetime of exposure to the sun. A squamous cell carcinoma occurs on the outer layer of skin, and continues to grow if left untreated.
Treatment: The dermatologist referred me to a Mohs Micrographic Surgeon. My first appointment with this specialist was to see if I was a candidate for the surgery, and for him to explain the procedure to me. The surgeon cut off the effected tissue layer by layer, cauterizing it as he did. Then he checked the removed tissue under a microscope to see if it was healthy or cancerous. He repeated this process as many times as necessary, until he was certain all of the cancer had been removed, leaving only healthy tissue. I was awake for this in-office procedure and did not feel a thing. It was traumatic though, because the affected area was under my nose and the smell of my own flesh being cauterized was nauseating. At first I was devastated because of the scar on my face. With time and a scar cream it faded; and now most people only notice it if I point it out.
I have learned to:
- Avoid getting sun-burned
- Use sun block every day, even in the winter and on overcast days
- Wear hats to protect your face from the sun’s rays
- Try to stay in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Self-examine your skin every month from head to toe