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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Basal cell carcinoma: Cate’s story

Since my client Cate had a basal cell carcinoma removed from her face and she had a story to tell, I asked her to write about her experience. Her story, especially her hesitation going to the dermatologist (sound familiar?), is a common one and is an important point in her message. Here is some of what she wrote:

I put off going to the dermatologist, but probably only for 6-7 months* because [the mole] looked like a freckle, so friendly and benign. You, however, advised me to go get it checked out, especially because it was new.

A doctor-friend wanted me to have an ophthalmological surgeon do the biopsy and removal because it was so close to my eye. The eye surgeon was certain beforehand that it wasn’t cancer, but while I was out and still under the knife, the pathology report came back—basal cell carcinoma.

So out it came with more tissue than expected and a skin graft to boot. All because you really urged me to have it looked at. Most likely if I’d gone sooner it would have been smaller and not as big a deal.
*Six to seven months can be a long time for cancer to grow.

Because I see Cate’s skin on a semi-regular basis (she gets quarterly facials, sometimes more often), I have had the advantage of becoming familiar with her skin and am able to notice changes from time to time. Because I am not superhuman, I do write down changes or abnormalities I see on a chart I have for each and every client, something every aesthetician should do without question.

I had marked down what I thought was a place on Cate’s face (near her eye) with unusual tissue formation. So the next time she came in (3 months later), I knew it wasn’t a blemish. Spots don’t take three months to heal, and this place looked the same as it did, no changes. That is unusual for a blemish, not for other skin formations. Also, the tissue looked strange to me.

Even though I encouraged Cate to see her dermatologist, she did what many people routinely do—she didn’t do anything. Cate let many months pass before she decided to take the plunge and have her moles checked. I think it is part of human nature to avoid something we don’t want to know about, such as the possibility of cancer. I hope you will bypass this perhaps natural inclination if you indeed find a funny-looking mole—no matter where it is located on your body—and have it checked out.

It is common for me to send my clients to the dermatologist to have a mole checked. Nine times out of ten, they come back with a clean bill of health. But as I tell them, I would rather be safe than sorry. In the case of skin cancer, this should be your anthem. And anytime you have had a cancerous lesion removed, you should (if not instructed by your doctor) get a checkup at least every six months to a year. I advise the shorter time frame because once you have one place removed, I believe there will inevitably be more to come. And the more time you have spent in the sun (over your lifetime, not just recently), the higher the chances of problems cropping up.

I recommend going to your dermatologist for a baseline mole check. The baseline gives the doctor a marker of what your moles look like now, so if in the future they change, it may be easier to detect potential problem areas.

For more articles on skin cancer see: