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Skin Cancer

Posted by Lindsey_CA (My Page) on
Sat, Oct 2, 04 at 18:05

I've recently been diagnosed with skin cancer on my face for the third time. The first two were squamous cell carcinoma, and were on my forehead (a small brown spot that had been there for years suddenly went from totally flat to a smidgen of "thickness"); and on the left side of my nose (a wart-like growth that suddenly appeared). I was not disfigured at all, and have barely perceptible scars.

This third go-round, I've been told it's basal cell carcinoma (which I know is "better" than squamous cell), and it was a growth that suddenly appeared below the inside corner of my right eye.

So, now I'm scheduled for a consultation with a guy who is a specialist in the Moh's surgery, and I'm also already scheduled for the Moh's surgery.

Has anyone else here been through this? Have any of you (or anyone you know) had multiple bouts with skin cancer?

I guess one of the things that depresses me is that for each of these three cancers, the doctor has told me (before removing the thing and sending it for biopsy) that it was "nothing" and that it was "normal for someone of my age." Yet, each time I was right to be concerned because they were all cancerous. I've looked at hundreds of photos of the various types of skin cancer, and none of them look anything like the three malignancies that I had. The first two (squamous cell) were diagnosed by one dermatologist that I'd been going to for many years, and he has a good reputation. Now this latest one was diagnosed by a different dermatologist -- one who is listed as a "top doc" nationally in the field of dermatology. So now every time I point out something and hear "oh, that's nothing," I'm going to be worried that it's really malignant...


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Skin Cancer

Lindsey, I know you are concerned, but this type of cancerous tissue is so common and so easily removed that it's really "nothing". It's when those little spots and bumps are ignored until there is a serious erosion of tissue that it becomes a problem.

Stick with your regular visits to your dermatologist and do as he/she advises. You will most likely have these spots popping up for the rest of your life. They are not the kind of cancer that spreads to other organs. They can do a lot of damage to the skin and underlying tissue if not removed as soon as possible.

Some people just seem more prone to develop them than others.

My first visit to a dermatologist was for a mole. During the exam, he pointed out that I had over 20 pre-cancerous spots on my arms and legs. These were removed. I go once a year and usually have 6 or more new ones every time.

The older a person is, the more the skin has been exposed to the sun, and the more damage has been done. And the more likely cancerous tissue will develop.

Get yourself checked at least once a year or better, every six months and don't worry about it.
PB


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RE: Skin Cancer

PB, thanks for the reassurances. BUT, as I said, for each of the three cancers, I was told by the dermatologists that they were nothing to worry about. I said I wanted them removed anyway, and then when they were biopsied they proved to be malignant. I guess what bothers me is that I have other moles/spots that concern me, but the docs have said "they're nothing." I guess I should insist that they be removed, too, and sent to be biopsied.

Yes, I know that skin cancer if caught early is not fatal, but I also know that if left untreated, they CAN spread and be, ultimately, fatal. And for years and years I've been told that a few of these moles/spots are "nothing," so I guess I'm wondering, if they actually are "something," what is the timeline of "early detection" -- one month, six months, one year, three years?


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RE: Skin Cancer

There is one type of skin cancer that can spread and be terminal. That's Melanoma. It's not the same thing as squamous cell or basil cell skin cancer. A good physician can detect the spots while they are in a pre-cancerous state and remove them before they become cancerous.

If you are concerned about these moles, get them removed to ease your mind. If your doctor doesn't want to do it, insist that he give you a better reason than it's nothing to worry about.

I simply can't abide going to a doctor that doesn't think it's worth his time to explain things. If you can't establish a good relationship with the doctor that you have now, find one you can trust.


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RE: Skin Cancers

Melanoma is certainly the deadliest form of skin cancer, but if caught early is not fatal. It is not true that basal cell and/or squamous cell are never fatal. Basal cell carcinoma is certainly the lesser of the three evils here, and rarely spreads. Squamous cell carcinoma causes approximately 2,200 deaths each year.


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RE: Skin Cancer

I wasn't aware of those statistics. Are those deaths from basil cell and squamous cell carcinomas that were not treated? Or those that did not respond to treatment. I have always been under the impression that when it is caught before it could invade the underlying tissue, it was always cured. I see that I am going to have to research this some more. Untreated ones do a horrible amount of damage.

I was also under the impression that it did not spread into other organs, such as lungs, stomach, etc. Is this also incorrect? I know that Melanoma does and that's why it's so deadly.

I guess that we have so much skin cancer here that our dermatologists are over cautious. Just about everyone I know, at least the fair skinned ones, have had the pre-cancerous spots removed.

Wish you good luck with this.
PB


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RE: Skin Cancer

The (approx.) 2,200 deaths per year are from squamous cell carcimona. I don't know the statistics on basal cell carcinoma. I belive the stats on melanoma fatalities say something like 7,500 deaths per year.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "caught before it could invade the underlying tissue," so I'll just add this... basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas that are in certain areas, such as on or close to an eyelid, often have "roots" that MUST be removed in order for the patient to be considered anywhere close to "cured." And, from what I understand, all squamous cell carcinomas will invade underlying tissue if not treated. What I don't know is how long that takes. Some conditions, "if not treated," can become much more serious rather quickly, and others take a long time. I'd really like to know how long it takes a squamous cell carcinoma to "invade underlying tissue." Oh, here's a cut-and-paste from the Skin Cancer web site:

"Although squamous cell carcinomas usually remain confined to the epidermis for some time, they eventually penetrate the underlying tissues if not treated. In a small percentage of cases, they spread (metastasize) to distant tissues and organs. When this happens, they can be fatal. Squamous cell carcinomas that metastasize most often arise on sites of chronic inflammatory skin conditions or on the mucous membranes or lips."

So, since carcinomas near the eyes, for example, have these "roots," I guess that's not considered to be the same thing as "penetrating underlying tissues," but what is?

I know that people with fair skin are at a higher risk for skin cancer. I'm Italian-Irish. I don't have the "full" olive skin of most Italians because I'm half Italian and half Irish... Also, folks with blue or green eyes are at a higher risk, and I have green eyes. Folks who have had one skin cancer are at a much higher risk of having another, and I'm now on #3.

Sigh... I guess to be a little "safer" I could have the doc remove all the little "things" on my face that concern me, but if I do that, I might has well get all new facial skin!


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RE: Skin Cancer

Who told you your cancers were "malignant"? Did your doctors tell you that? It has always been my understanding that basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are not malignant.... unless they are left untreated until too late and then spread.

I can understand your concern. I'm fair-skinned and spent a lot of time in the sun when I was young (going to the beach and my parents have a pool). Now I am in the sun gardening.

I have had one basal cell spot removed earlier this year -- a pink raise area the size of a pencil eraser on my upper left arm. Why of all places there??? I don't wear sleeveless shirts! Who knows.

I worry about more arising and I feel little bumps all over the place, especially on my shoulders. Recently I noticed a small, flat, brown spot on the left side of my nose. I will be calling my dermatologist very soon to have them looked at.

I am not letting myself get too concerned about this... if I do, I will be out of my mind with worry. There's nothing I can do about it now, and the stress of worry will not do my body any good and will just lower my immune system.

My bigger worry is the inside of my lips which I have chewed on since childhood -- a very bad nervous habit that arose from internalizing anger and frustration in a home where such feelings were not allowed. I almost constantly have a slightly swollen, irritated area inside my upper lip. I'm beginning to worry if the worst will happen one day... I don't even want to type the words. I'm trying to stop this very bad habit.

Jen


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RE: Skin Cancer

BTW... I am sooooooo glad I'm not hearing as often in the media "especially those who burn easily like blondes and redheads".

Anyone can get skin cancer, even dark-skinned brown-eyed people. The old statement was so frequently used that I believe some groups of people thought "it couldn't happen to me, I don't have red hair". That's one of the most dangerous myths around.

Jen


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RE: Skin Cancer

Jenn,

Carcinoma is cancer. If it is cancer, it is, by its very definition, malignant. There is benign (no cancer), and there is malignant (cancer). Nothing in between. Kinda like pregnant or not pregnant. There's no such thing as "a little bit pregnant."

You wrote, "It has always been my understanding that basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are not malignant.... unless they are left untreated until too late and then spread." You're confusing malignant with metastacized -- which is when cancer spreads from one part of the body to another.


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RE: Skin Cancer

Thanks Lindsey. I knew malignant is not necessarily metastatic but didn't realize that any cancer is malignant. Well I still don't think basal cell or even squamous cell are a big deal unless we let them go too far. I'd be worried if I had melanoma.... real worried. But even that is curable and I know people who have had it with no recurrance.

Best wishes to you... the best thing is to just get checked regularly, eat healthy foods, stay out of the sun or wear sunscreen and hat when you have to be in it, and don't worry about it for your own mental health. :-)

Jen


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RE: Skin Cancer

My husband is covered by moles and hematomas (sp). I worried when one changed, the doctor wasn't concerned about them, but removed them to play it safe. They were not cancer. Then he had a small pink spot on his chest, I asked the doctor to check it and he said I don't like this one. It was an indentation, it curved in not out like moles. Sure enough it was basil cell carcinoma. Don't want to worry you but you need to really pay attention to your body changes, not just things on the outside of your body. Follow up on the mamograms, paps, etc..


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RE: Skin Cancer

Lindsey, not every cancer is malignant. Some tumors are benign and I've heard/read for years that basal cell skin cancer is benign unless it is ignored. Squamous cell carcinoma is malignant but slow-spreading, and most are cured. Try to keep that 2200-deaths-per-year statistic in perspective. Many people never go to the doctor until it is way too late. My brother is an ER nurse and has told us of people who finally go to the ER after many years of a symptom that would cause any prudent person to go to the doctor much sooner.

Jen


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RE: Skin Cancer

Jenn,

You wrote, "Lindsey, not every cancer is malignant." No offense intended, but you are so wrong.

Not every tumor is malignant. A tumor can be benign, or it can be malignant. A tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue (resulting from excessive cell division). If those excessive cells are normal the tumor is benign. If the cells are abnormal, they are considered to be cancer -- a malignancy.

The definition of "malignant" is Cancerous. A growth with a tendency to invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. (When it spreads, it has metastasized.)

Webster's definition of "cancer" is a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis

You wrote, "basal cell skin cancer is benign unless it is ignored." Cancer is not benign. A more accurate statement would be that "basal cell skin cancer rarely metastasizes unless it is ignored."

My concern is not that this basal cell carcinoma (CANCER) wasn't caught/treated in time. My concern is two-fold: (1) This is my THIRD "bout" with skin cancer. I know that if you have had one skin cancer, you stand a 50% chance of having another. I'm guessing that those odds go up with each additional skin cancer, so I guess now that I've had three, it's only a matter of time until the 4th, 5th, etc. I wouldn't care as much if the skin cancer were on my arms, or back, or legs. But they're on my face -- more painful to deal with when having the initial mole/growth removed, and more painful and difficult to deal with when having the secondary surgery to make sure all the cancer cells have been removed; and (2) each time I have pointed out a mole or a growth to a dermatologist and said, "I'm concerned about this," or "this one bothers me," I have been told "that's nothing. I can remove it if you'd like, but it's nothing to be concerned about." Yes, there have been times when the pathology report comes back with "benign" on it, but THREE TIMES now the report has come back with CARCINOMA on it. So, I guess I can go in and have every little spot removed, just to be safe, but, geez, I'd need all new skin for my face. So, what I'd really like to know is, how long is the time frame a basal cell carcinoma can go untreated and how long is the time frame a squamous cell carcinoma can go untreated before they will metastasize? I'm sure there's no "concrete" amount of time, but I'd really like to know a generalization -- a month? six months? one year? five years?


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RE: Skin Cancer

Linsey, I understand. Thanks for setting me straight. I can certainly empathize with your fears. Since the one basal cell spot was removed last month, I now know that my future with skin cancer checks and removals has thus begun. I have the same questions. But since it was not on my face it is easier to forget about it.

Take good care...
Jen


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RE: Skin Cancer

Jenn it's not just skin cancer you need to worry about when you have basil cell, you need to keep on your toes with all warning signs, any kinds of cancer. My husband had a basil cell and I was told he will be prone to other cancers. A few year later he had prostate cancer and 40 radiation treatments, so far every thing looks good.


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RE: Skin Cancer

Thanks for the heads-up, Jonesy. Well, I guess it's all downhill from here! =8-0

;o)

Jen


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RE: Skin Cancer

I was told that the sun damage that causes skin cancer is accumulative and that I would continue to get them even if I never went out in the sun again. That was over 20 years ago and has proven to be true...in fact they are coming up in increasing numbers. I have some rather nasty scars to prove that leaving them too long is not a good idea. I have also noted that they are usually larger than they appear on the surface. I have had to have some redone (surgical removal) because they "didn't get it all"...not words that I wanted to hear. Best to get them frozen off while they are still in the pre-cancerous stage.


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RE: Skin Cancer

Lindsey, my little sister has had 3 (or more-she stopped telling us about all of them) basal cell carcinomas removed, and she's not even 30 yet. 2 were on her face and 1 on her shoulder. Her dermatologist took our family history very seriously- our paternal grandfather died of melanoma. I had a mole on my back since I was at latest 7 years old, and several years ago I wanted it removed because it was rubbing on my new low-rise jeans. The dermatologist, first visit, zapped the thing off. Of course it was just a mole; if I had cancer for 20 years (that's at least as long as I had the mole) I'd probably be in serious trouble.

Anyway, I don't care how fantastic the derm is supposed to be, if s/he doesn't listen to you, the patient, s/he's a crappy doctor. Nobody knows what is normal for you better than you. If the derm can't get that, s/he's not worth seeing. Keep looking for a trusting derm.

And try not to worry. I know it's hard, my sister was 23 when she was first diagnosed, and didn't take it so well at first. But then she started to joke around saying stuff like "Don't annoy me, I have cancer" and such in a joking manner, although obviously she did have cancer. But being lighthearted about it, talking to people honestly, and being diligent about keeping her derm appointments and looking for skin changes has helped. It's not something that will ever go away- she will always have to be on the lookout for new growths. But it is mananged.

PS- her derm said that he is treating tons of people her age with skin cancer, especially on the left side of the face, shoulder, and arm. Chalks it up to long commutes (trucker's tan) and lack of ozone layer. And BTW, she lives in Chicago, not exactly the most tropical or direct sun exposure in the world.


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RE: Skin Cancer

But, after basal cell cancers are removed, one can't claim to still have cancer. The cancer is gone and was benign. New ones might occur, but the person in general doesn't have cancer unless that happens, and even then only until they are gone.

Correct???


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RE: Skin Cancer

Technically, that is almost correct. Cancer is not benign, ever. But you would be cancer-free once the tumors are removed.

I know one person who considers herself in remission because she doesn't currently have any tumors. She actually had melanoma, which is the worst type of skin cancer to get. But she doesn't like to think of herself as cured because she is afraid of becoming complacent in checking for new growths or lax in protecting herself from the sun. But if you want to say you are cured after all the tumors are removed, then by all means do so! You would be correct. But be aware that you will have to be diligent for the rest of your life in checking for new lesions.


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RE: Skin Cancer

I didn't mean to alarm you Jenn, you just need to know to watch for problems My mom goes in the her doctor checks her all over, because she had pre cancer spots removed from her nose.

My husband's basil cell was tested in the lab and the report was cancer. When the doctor removed it, he didn't get enough clean skin and had to go back and take more. It is the slowest growing skin cancer. It's hard to believe it would be call benign, you just don't have cancer anymore because it was removed. Benign means there was no cancer in the growth and there was. My husbands cancer was a spot the was a low spot instead of a raised one and it was pink.


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RE: Skin Cancer

Thanks Jonesy. :-) It did scare me a little because I thought basal cell cancer was "no big deal" and benign. I will keep a closer eye on things from now on -- this thread has really enlightened me.

Jen


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RE: Skin Cancer

John's doctor told him, "if you have to have cancer basal cell is the one to have". Don't be to worried, cancer runs in my husband's family, so he was a high risk anyway. Just be aware of changes in your body and get it checked out. John's sister had colon cancer and her daughter was aware of the symptons because of her mom. When she saw a little blood she had a test right away and caught it. It was removed by surger and she has been cancer free for almost 10 years with no reappearance.


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RE: Skin Cancer

I have had 2 bouts of basel cell carcinoma. My first was at 35, on my scalp. My second was at 40, under my eye. I now check myself very carefully. When I go in for my routine skin check, I have a written list of what I want my dermatologist to check (in case I forget!). I had MOH's surgery on my face and it was very emotional for me. I saw patients in there with HUGE chunks removed from their faces and it really made an impression with me. I was the youngest one in there. That did scare me! It's been 2 years since my MOH's surgery, and so far so good. I am fair-skinned and worked VERY hard in college to have a tan. I am now paying the price. I have 3 children and I plaster them with sunscreen in the summer! It's very hard for me to see people out in the sun, deliberately tanning their skin. Especially fair-skinned people. I will always take this seriously!


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RE: Skin Cancer

My mom has had skin cancer twice, breast cancer once. Now she may have skin cancer again. The first two times were on her face, this one's a tumor on her thumb. Will find out today what the next step is. It's so not fair; she'll be 85 next week, can't she just be left alone??


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RE: Skin Cancer

I had a squamous cell carcinoma removed from my face about 7 months ago. The scar isn't that bad, but I had a puffy swollen bump show up all of a sudden. When I went to the dermatologist, she shot me up with something and it went down. Now, a few months later, the puffy swollen bump is back. Anyone experience this?? should I be concerned? how can I get the swelling down? Thanks!


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RE: Skin Cancer

Hello
If your skin experiencing abnormal changes? Do not waste your time and get to know more about skin cancer diagnosis to find out the root cause of your problem.......

Here is a link that might be useful: Skin cancer diagnosis Lincoln


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