Several years back, my dad had a dark spot on his nose that was getting bigger. It wasn’t until someone blatantly asked him outright, “What’s that thing on your nose??” did he make an appointment to get it checked and see about getting it removed.
At the time, he was a little perturbed as he thought this person was quite rude for making the comment, but his rude remark likely saved his life. The spot on his nose was melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer, but also the most curable if you catch it early enough. And thank God my dad’s was caught early, it was Stage I and they were able to completely remove it.
But this kind of cancer isn’t something that just happens to older people. More and more I am hearing of younger and younger people being diagnosed with skin cancer.
Click here to read Kristin Bush’s personal story she shared at OC Family. Kristin is a young mom who was recently diagnosed with melanoma (again caught early, thank God.) And here to read Jenny’s story, diagnosed with melanoma at age 26 with a nine-month-old at home. Gulp. But she has now been melanoma free for 5 years because they caught it early.
Please read those posts I just linked, their information could save your life.
But others that don’t catch melanoma early can risk it spreading to other parts of the body. In the course of people planning our 20-year high school reunion this summer, classmates were putting together a memorial list of people from our class that had passed away which is how I found out a boy I went to middle school and high school with had died.
I came to find out he had Stage IV melanoma diagnosed when he was only 32 that had spread to his brain. He was only 34-years-old when he died. He was the nicest person, I remember him so well. Devastating. It was his story that inspired me to write this post as a reminder to us all.
So, what should you know?
With detection being the key, EVERY single person should get a full body skin check by a doctor ANNUALLY.
Ladies! When you make your annual PAP appointment, make it a habit to make your yearly derm appointment at the same time.
And when you do your monthly breast self exam, remember to check your skin as well. It’s important to have your partner also keep an eye on your back, and the areas that you can’t see well.
But if you have a family history of skin cancer (like I do), and/or any other higher risk factors like lots of moles and fair skin, every 6 months is advisable.
Because of my dad’s melanoma and my fair skin and myriad of moles I get checked by a derm every 6 months. I have had probably 20 moles taken off to be biopsied over the last 6 years. And I tell them to keep taking ANYTHING that looks even slightly suspicious because I would rather have it taken off than chance it being cancer.
Pay attention to your skin and anything that is new or changes!
Skin cancers come in all different shapes and sizes.
Basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers are most often found in areas that gets lots of sun but they can be found anywhere. Look for new growths, spots, bumps, patches or sores that don’t heal after a couple months.
Basal cell carcinomas can look flat, firm, raised, pink or red, translucent, shiny, waxy or bleed. They can also ooze or crust.
Squamous cell carcinomas may look like growing lumps, often with rough, scaly or crusted surface. They can also be flat reddish patches that grow slowly.
Melanomas are known as the “Ugly Duckling“, or something on your skin that stands out as looking different from other freckles or moles.
Most everyone has normal moles, which are evenly colored brown, tan or black spots on the skin.
You always want to make sure you are watching for CHANGES in a mole in size, shape or color – or a new mole or growth on your skin.
I am sure you have heard the ABCD rules as warning signs of melanoma, but as a reminder, these are things you DON’T want to see in any mole:
A – Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other.
B – Border: Edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
C – Color: Color is not uniform, and may includes shades of brown or black, or possibly patches of pink, red, white or blue.
D – Diameter: Spot is larger than about 1/4 inch (approximately the size of a pencil eraser, although melanomas can also be smaller.
And my recent dermatologist reminded me to also add the “E” to ABCD:
E – Evolution: A new or existing mole or spot that changes size, shape and/or color.
If any of your moles have any one of these descriptions, it’s a good thing to get it checked out.
Other warning signs of possible skin cancer can be:
~ A sore that does not heal
~ Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
~ Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
~ Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness or pain
~ Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a bump or nodule.
And of course, for yourself, and your children, please always remember your broad spectrum SPF when going outdoors. Especially for your kids. Use a LOT (at least a shot glass full when applying), and reapply OFTEN. We LOVE this sunscreen by Patrick’s Sunscreen. It’s a chemical-free mineral shield and you can save 10% off your order with the code “ORANGES.”
Most of this information found on www.Cancer.org. Now go make your skin check appointment!