Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Skin Cancer Story—the results

The pathology report came back from the mole biopsy I had last month suggesting further investigation was necessary. Reading dermatology reports on the Internet, in my particular case and pathology reading, some dermatologists excised (removing a skin cancer along with some of the healthy skin tissue around it—the margin) and some did not. In my case, since the mole could potentially turn into melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers, I didn’t want to risk it. I took my doctor’s advice and had the mole excised.

What does it mean to have a mole excised? It means that I went back into my dermatologist’s office a few weeks after the initial biopsy and he made close to a one inch incision on my neck then scooped out more tissue for testing, making sure all the questionable cells were removed.

The incision soon after the mole removal.

It is pretty unbelievable that literally a dot of a mole turned into a good inch-long scar on my neck. I was prepared there would be stitches, I know they have to make a bigger incision than you’d expect, but I have to admit when I asked to see where the doctor had drawn the cut mark on my neck, it was a bit of a shock. Thank goodness this wasn’t on my face!

I have said to my clients for years that it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to getting funny-looking moles checked by a dermatologist. The longer you wait, the more potential there is that you will be sporting a large scar if you have to have a mole (cancer or precancer) removed. Here, with my tiny mole, I will be left with a rather large scar on my neck—for the rest of my life. I take this willingly vs. the alternative. 

Make an appointment now with your dermatologist if you haven’t been in a year or more (or ever). Get a full-body mole check, and know you are doing yourself a huge favor in the process. You might be surprised to find out something needs to be removed.

See My Skin Cancer Story: Please read this! to get important information about funny-looking moles.

For more information, see:

UPDATE: 12/2014
The scar on my neck has of course healed and is visible, for sure. But every time I look at it I think about the future possibility: melanoma. So for me the scar is a happy reminder of a positive outcome. Plus—I’m intrigued by scars; each and every one has a unique story to tell. One hundred percent of the time I will take a scar over the alternative.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Skin Cancer Story: Please read this!

My hopes in telling this story is to show you how important getting regular mole checks is—especially if you see something new or suspicious—to the health of your skin.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist who came highly recommended. I mainly wanted to establish a relationship with a dermatologist so I would have someone to recommend to my clients when I find moles they should have checked out. I also had a tiny (and I mean tiny) dot of a mole on my neck I wanted looked at.

If you had seen this dot (mole) you wouldn’t think anything of it, but I did. It was new, which is one warning sign of potential skin cancer. It was also almost black, a second sign. This dot just looked like a tiny freckle. It was small. From seeing so many clients over the years and seeing odd places on their skin, I have a pretty good sense of possible problem spots and knew this needed to be looked at.

It was the PA (Physician’s Assistant) who actually examined me; this is a common practice in a dermatologist’s office and perfectly fine. (PAs are highly skilled practitioners.) As it turns out the PA said indeed it was potentially problematic. She recommended either keeping an eye on it and having another look in 3 months or take it off now and have it analyzed. I opted for the latter. Why? Because if it was “something,” she said the something it would be is melanoma, not a less deadly squamous cell or basal cell cancer. So off it goes!

I’m not really concerned because if it turns out to be melanoma, it was removed so early that I don’t believe it will be an issue. And if it is nothing today, it could turn into something some day, and I’m simply not willing to risk it.

My point in sharing this story is to let you know that even the slightest change in a mole can signal cancer or a precancerous growth. In my case the “dot” was new, I probably saw it 2 months ago and realized it was new back then—or at least I didn't remember ever noticing it before. It was also dark, almost black, which is another warning sign. Click here to read about skin cancers and what to look for.

If you aren’t currently seeing a dermatologist or haven’t seen one in a while, I recommend getting a baseline full-body mole check if you are near or over 40, and especially if you’ve had a lot of sun exposure in your lifetime and if you have a lot of moles—no matter your age. Then see your dermatologist annually for mole checks. With the potential for skin cancer, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Please see the continuation of this story:
As well as:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Skin injury? Why keeping UV rays off injured skin is important

Continuing from yesterday’s post, A motorcycle burn & the healing power of essential oils, my calf is burned! 

What happens when tissue is damaged either through a cut or bruise or in my case, a burn? That tissue doesn’t pigment normally. In other words, the injured area is prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is true for run of the mill skin injuries such as my burn from yesterday as well as for anyone with problem skin. “Injured” skin can include the red, infected blemishes of a breakout. Although you might not consider your blemished skin to be “damaged” per se, it is in terms of how the affected tissue will heal once the bacterial infection has gone. I’ve seen many clients get post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation when they’ve had blemishes on their faces and then had excessive (or sometimes even minimal) sun exposure.

The term post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation means after-infection dark spots. With my calf’s burned skin, this injured area is now prone to this condition. To avoid getting a dark mark all around the perimeter of the burned tissue, I will keep a Band-Aid® on the injury any time I’m outside for long (or even short) periods of time, whether I am hiking or simply walking my dog. Any amount of sun exposure on injured skin can cause hyperpigmentation; the band-aid creates an occlusive cover that will keep UV rays off that skin. I will need be diligent until the actual burn heals completely or run the risk of having a “tattoo” (a permanent dark area) at the site of the injury.

When going outside, I will put essential oil of lavender on the absorbent pad of the band-aid (the middle part) so the burned skin can be in contact with the lavender oil but receives no sun exposure. At night or when I won’t be in the sun, I’ll liberally apply lavender oil to my injury and probably keep the band-aid off while I’m inside.

Something to note: Exposing skin (injured or not) that you have applied essentials oils to and left uncovered can also cause pigmentation irregularities. If you haven’t yet read yesterday’s post about applying lavender to my injury, I recommend you do! It has important information about the immediate healing effects of this essential oil.

After the burned tissue on my calf heals, which will be several weeks at least, it’ll probably be OK if I just put sunscreen on the area when I’m out and about. But when I’m hiking or outside for extended periods of time, I will continue with the band-aid routine in hopes of keeping hyperpigmentation away.

My point here is two-fold: Treat skin injuries with lavender oil, and don’t leave injured tissue exposed to the sun. You run the risk of getting post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can take a long time to go away. As I mentioned before, injured tissue could be a blemish, burn, scrape (especially road rash), cut or any other injury that alters the tissue in any way. Be careful, pay attention around hot metal objects, wear sunscreen, and put a bandage soaked in lavender on any injured skin before getting out in the sun.

For more information, see:
Beware of motorcycle mufflers!
UPDATE: 4/2015
Now years after this calf-burn-injury has healed, I am still able to see the area that was injured. Try as I might, I wasn’t always as diligent as I recommend being, and hyperpigmentation did take hold of the area. It fades almost to skin tone in the winter months, but once I’m outside in the summertime, the hyperpigmentation becomes more apparent. Be careful about sun exposure when you’re injured. It can truly have a lasting affect on your skin long after the injury has healed.

As an added note: scar tissue doesn’t have the ability to produce pigment; it is essentially “dead” tissue. So, even if I had been hypervigilant about keeping sun off my calf, at any time in the future when UV light is on that area, there will always be a pigmentless area where the scar from the burn exists.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A motorcycle burn & the healing power of essential oils

Today I accidentally leaned into the fiery hot muffler of a friend’s motorcycle right after I got on. I am aware I need to keep my legs from touching these hot parts; regardless, today I got the reminder loud and clear. I am now sporting a half-dollar sized burn mark on my calf. To say this hurts is an understatement, but what’s done is done. Now it’s time for the healing to begin.

Initially I put ice on it because I rode out to a restaurant and was unable to get to my arsenal of medications at home for a few hours. The ice did help and even numbed the area a bit, but I could still feel the heat of the burn deep into my calf. Once I got home I immediately put lavender essential oil on the spot and, as I knew it would, it took the burning pain away instantly.

Lavender has many attributes; one virtue is its quick absorption and healing ability. As with all essential oils, lavender has antibacterial properties. With any kind of skin injury, including today’s burn, keeping bacterial infection away is priority #1. Lavender is also soothing to cuts and scrapes as well as burns, whether it’s a sunburn or a burn from an oven, an iron, or a hot motorcycle muffler. In fact, lavender is said to be a contact healer, meaning that it soothes burns (and other injuries) on contact. I know this was definitely the case with me today.

I now have a large bandage (soaked in lavender) on the area, and I can’t even feel the injury. I will continue to put lavender on this place and eventually it should be OK.
  • Lesson 1: Don’t lean into a motorcycle’s muffler (or burn your skin in any other way)
  • Lesson 2: Use lavender essential oil if you do
This and many essential oils can be found in most health food stores. Lavender is in my personal medicine cabinet as one of the essential oils I reach for often.

The next thing to do for my skin injury is to keep it covered, away from sun exposure. Learn more about the importance of this and how to keep hyperpigmentation away:
For more detailed information on this essential “medication” see: