11.10.2015

A Little Health Scare & a Reminder


A few years ago I noticed a dark spot on my upper abdomen. I'm not super observant and had no idea if it was new or if it had been there a while. I didn't think much of it. Then about a year ago I noticed another on my leg. Both small spots, but dark and not perfectly round. They had "irregular borders" and weren't the same color throughout. I knew I should go get them checked but passed them off since they were small and didn't bother me or itch (which I'd read were characteristics of melanoma). 

Then, a fellow bloggers husband was diagnosed with melanoma. A very serious case. Not just on his skin, but in other places in his body. Apparently he had no visible spots and no other symptoms other than a lump under his arm, which prompted him to be checked. This scared me. I have spots. Honestly, melanoma was never a big concern of mine. Even though I have super fair skin, freckles and I tanned in my younger days. Back then I was young, dumb and invincible. I know better now. I use sunscreen religiously and protect myself from the sun. But the damage is done.

I'd heard that melanoma was the deadliest form of skin cancer but I never really thought about it much, thinking that there would for sure be some big, ugly mark indicating something was wrong before it ever progressed to other parts of the body. But that's not the case. Melanoma can be small. It doesn't have to have all of the key characteristics to be present. It can even be visible and then resolve. 

I made an appointment to be checked. Turns out I needed seven spots removed and sent off to pathology to be checked. My doctor was pretty sure that several were either pre-malignant or had possibly already progressed to melanoma. He was right. I learned at my follow-up yesterday that five of my seven spots were atypical/dysplastic. My doctor referred to this as pre-malignant. Luckily the margins of removal were clean and I don't need to have them cut out deeper.

Four of my seven spots. All small! There were on my abdomen and all tested atypical. 

When discussing this with my doctor he told me that he'd just recently removed a spot on his own eight year old son and learned after getting pathology reports back that he needs to go in and get more out. The spot was pre-malignant with larger margins. Of course this was very upsetting to him. Those numbing shots don't feel good, especially for a child. But he put it this way "I'd rather go in and get it all out than learn my kid is going to die". He's blunt, but he's right. Melanoma can take a life several months after an advanced diagnosis. It's nothing to play with. 
 
So, my reminder - If you have a questionable spot, get it checked. The sooner the better. Timing matters. Melanoma can be easily removed (before it progresses) if caught in time. Also, use your sunscreen! Just because it's shady or overcast outside doesn't mean those rays aren't hitting your skin.

April

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