Friday, October 7, 2011

Let's Talk Seriously About Skin!

As I was removing the outer bandage over my incision today, I thought it would be good if I could spare anyone else from having to experience what I did this past week.

About 9 years ago, I decided to go see the dermatologist and have my moles checked.  I'd never been a huge "sun worshipper" but I did spend a fare amount of summers poolside in my teenage years and then did a few rounds in the tanning beds.  I know that probably wasn't the best decision but I was young, wanted to look tan and convinced myself that a little bit wouldn't hurt. 

On my first trip to the dermatologist, she identified two "suspicious" looking moles and removed them.  Some "a-typical" cells were identified (basically that means cells that are on their way to becoming melanoma) so I returned again to have a little more tissue removed to make sure all these bad cells were gone. 

Well, as the years passed, I got a little lazy and only went once to see the dermatologist.  About 2 years ago, I noticed some changes on a mole but kept procrastinating on making the appointment with the dermatologist until this fall.  When the doctor said she wanted to remove that funny looking mole, I thought, "been there, done that, no big deal".  As with the first time, I received a call that they found "a-typical" cells but this time I would need to go in for "general surgery" to have more tissue removed.

Although the word "surgery" sounded very serious, I was glad that there wasn't any melanoma found and I kept telling myself it was probably just like before.....but boy was I ever wrong!  From the moment the doctor told me I would have about a 1 1/2 inch scar to the 30 seconds of having to endure the probing of the needle while he numbed the area to the smell of burning flesh, I knew this was far more serious than the previous experience.  The doctor felt that they were able to get all of those "transitional (a/k/a "a-typical") cells" but he cautioned me to make sure I wear sunscreen and be extremely cautious about sun exposure and be sure to follow up regularly with my dermatologist.

Now I know there is a LOT of controversy about sunscreen...from the chemicals found in some sunscreens to whether or not there really is such a thing as spf 100, etc.  There is also great debate about whether or not sun exposure is the main/leading cause of skin cancer.  In my case, 2 of the 3 problem spots were not areas that have seen a lot of sun.  So, while I plan to be extra cautious about time in the sun that is not the main thrust of this article.  My goal with this article is simply this...

If you have ANY moles, go see the dermatologist and get checked.  Pay attention to your skin and if any moles change or new ones appear, have them checked out again.  Don't procrastinate like I did!  Trust me, it's much better to have tiny little incisions vs having to smell burning flesh and end up with a long row of stitches!

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