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Skin Cancer

Old 02-06-2010, 02:00 PM
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I promised myself that weather I made it or not I was going to write about this expérience. See, no one should ever have to go through what happened to me.

Only because I had the beginnings of an ugly wart growing on my forehead did I make the trip to the dermatologist to have it removed.

While there, the doctor offered to look at my back and head. I said sure and thanks. The news was surprising, I had two suspicious moles on my back that she took off and sent in for biopsy.

The results came back, both were cancer. One was Basil cell, and the other much more scary melanoma. The basil cell was removed in the doctor's office. The melanoma required a trip to the UNC cancer center, where I was informed that they would have to operate and remove my primary lymp node to see if the cancer had metastasized or spread to that node.

The results came back, and yes the melanoma made it to the primary node. They would have to go back in and remove the rest of my nodes surrounding the primary node. Great ; a second more serious operation and the news that I was truly in deep trouble.

Melanoma is a very agressive very fast growing cancer. It is also very unpredictable. The only way to treat it is by early detection. If you catch it before it spreads there is a 95% cure rate, if not it is 85% fatal. It is a disease that sneeks up on you, and is one of the fastest growing forms of cancer today.

I waited for a week, wondering if my life was coming to an early end. See, once you begin to read about this disease you realize how much trouble it is. You absolutely do not want it to get as far along as mine did.

I am truly blessed; the tests came back negative and the melanoma was confined to that one node that was removed. When that pathology report came back in, I almost jumped out of my skin. I had been given a second lease on life; quite literally.

Being fisher men/women, we all spend al lot of time in the sun. That is not the only cause of melanoma; but it contributes to it. GET YOURSELF CHECKED and get checked by a trained dermatologist, not dr. welby your long time friendly family doctor. See, each year I get a physical and the last thing I ask my family doctor to do is check my back and head for signs of cancer. He missed it for many years in a row. It is sometimes hard to identify and many primary care doctors miss it. That could be a fatal mistake. Its' a controllable disease if caught early on. If not you may as well sell your boat, tackle and say good by while you can.

Lastly; do not be concerned about the cost of the visit to the dermatologist. It will be the best money you will ever spend. See, an initial trip to the dermatologist most likely a couple of hundred dollars. If they take off a cancer mole; maybe up to a grand. Go as far as I did, two operations pet scan and abunch of other tests: somewhere between 40-50k.

Much cheaper and better to catch it early.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:03 PM
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Thank you for sharing. I could not have been easy writing about your experiences, and I applaud your courage.

I hope you remain healthy.

Mike
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:06 PM
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My standard phrase for my trips to the dermatologist is "Most of me will be back". At least every other visit results in a chunk going in for biopsy. I am in very good health, but as a result of too much sun, I truly fear my skin will kill me before my heart does.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:14 PM
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Thanks for posting, and sharing your story. I had my first skin cancer removed this past month. It was caught and removed at my Dr's office. I have spent my whole life in Fla. and always boated, fished or sailed. So far, I have only had the one spot. At least for the past ten years I lather up in sunblock, so will maybe stay lucky...
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:25 PM
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Thanks for sharing your story. I'm in my late 20s and have done an Efudex treatment on my nose & continue to be reminded of the damage from my teens. Everyone should have a good dermatologist (& good spf), there are even free skin screenings around most places.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:33 PM
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Coming from Australia originally I have a very good awareness of skin cancer. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. It is very hot there and a lot of people spend a significant amount of time outdoors year-round.

There are even advertisements on TV about skin cancer to raise awareness.

I applaud you for sharing with the forum and wish you the best of luck in your second life! Make the most of the fishing and boating, but remember to slip, slop & slap!

Slip, slop, slap is one of the slogans used in Australia.

Slip on a shirt
Slop on some sunscreen
and Slap on a hat

In Australia kids at school are made to wear hats when they go into the playground at lunch time, but it amazes me that here in the US (well Ca anyway) they are not allowed to wear hats, as the wearing of certain headgear/colors, etc. could be related to gang associations.

Also when swimming in Australia, it is very rare to see anybody in the water without a shirt on. There is a big industry in producing sun shirts for wearing while swimming that block out UV rays.

I have been surprised how little knowledge of skin cancer there is here in the US.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:38 PM
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I make it a point to go once a year or once every other- if i miss. Cant be overlooked.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:42 PM
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thanks to all for your kind words. If one person reads this and gets checked and does not have to go through what I did, then it was well worth it.

rat: you are correct. It is a terribly fatal disease if not caught early on, and almost 100% preventable especially if caught early. Yet, it gets so little press here in the US.

SOP for men's health; 40 years you get your PSA baseline for protate
50 years: the pleasure of your first colonoscopy yet no where are told to check suspicious moles.

A terrible shame.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:50 PM
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Rat_catcher i second what you say....They not only make them wear broad brimmed hats they have erected shade sales at most primary schools. On the high UV days they must stay under the shade sales.
The hats are all the same color and part of the school uniform and if you don't bring it to school you are not allowed outside.
I don't know how long you have been in the US but the TV ads are getting more graphic each year.
The one that hit home the most was when the show a full operation of a skin cancer being cut out.....real horrific stuff...
Beachnut53 i wish you all the best in your recovery and future checkups.
Cheers Gavin
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Old 02-06-2010, 03:19 PM
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If you've had any occurance of a Basil cell, Melanoma etc once a year isn't often enough. I go twice a year. I've had 3 Basil cells and one melanoma which was strictly insitu or just on the surface.

I started doing Flurocil (now Efudex by name brand) back in the 60's as I thought that when I lived in Florida that I was supposed to go to the beach and also mow grass in the middle of the day. I've been doing it ever since due to pre cancerous cells or what's known as actinic keratosis

I lost a neighbor last year due to his waiting a year after a spot was noted on his forehead. Even the DR. suggested waiting and watching it.
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Old 02-06-2010, 03:32 PM
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Thank you for sharing your story Beachnut. Being a vicitim of melanoma myself at 36 I very much appreciate what you went through both phycally and more importantly emotionally. After being diagnosed the first thing I did was hit the computer and researched what it was I really had because I didn't really think skin cancer was all that serious. It was not until I read how serious the disease is did my life flash before my eyes for a brief instant... I am glad to hear your most recent test came back with favorable results and I wish you all of the best!
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Old 02-06-2010, 03:40 PM
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thank you
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Old 02-06-2010, 03:41 PM
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Certainly glad to hear that you are "OK" and the skin cancers have been cured.

There are 3 major skin cancers--Melanoma is less than 10%. The other dangerous one is squamous cell which does metastasize and recurr in the same area. The Basal cell is mainly locally invasive.

There are A B C D of Melanomas: A-Asymmetry, benign lesions are often round and smooth. B-Borders, irregular or rugged borders are more likely melanoma. C. Color- variance in color with melanoma, consistant color for benign lesions D Diameter--more than 1/4 inch or growing suggest Melanoma. Always check with the dermatologist if any question. Melanomas can grow very rapidly and spread thruout the body. They may also occur on the retinae of the eye, and on mouth mucosa.

All are somewhat dependant on Ultra Violet radation: something we are exposed to on the water. To see a list of sunblocks which are most effective google: Sunscreens, Environmental Working Group--a 503 C 3 organization which independantly tests sun screens for both UV A and U V B. Many screens do not have adequate protection from UV A. This organization tests many thousands of products and ranks them yearly. Also important is the waterproofness of the sunscreen. You need to apply it liberally; i in shorts an ounce every hour or so. Reapply if you sweat heavily or get wet. Bimini and T Tops only give a partial protection from UV radiation. Pilot house boats are far better. Also there are clothing which have better UV protection than others. The DO NOT's are sun burn, and tanning booths. Just getting a tan will not prevent sundamage and cancer.

As a physician who spent most of his liesure time out of doors and on the water, I realized early that I was at high risks--but of course didn't take as many precautions as best. Later in life, I wear light weight sun block long pants and long sleeve shirts as well as wide brim hats as well as caps with "skirts" to protect the ears and neck.

Stay safe.
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Old 02-06-2010, 03:44 PM
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Beachnut

I went through almost EXACTLY the same experience a few years ago. I went to the Dr. after a pesky wart on my index finger just wouldn't go away. My dermo was smart enough to say "take your shirt off dummy" and check for precancers. Well... i had two melanomas. Holy sh.
Fortunately they were not deep enough to have spread to lymph nodes but an eye opener for sure. The Dr assured me that unchecked i would have probably died in 3 - 4 yrs. I was in my early 30's at the time and had a 1 yr old daughter.
New perspective on life for sure. Also new respect for sun protection.
Thanks for sharing and enjoy your health.
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Old 02-06-2010, 03:48 PM
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Sincere thanks.
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Old 02-06-2010, 04:22 PM
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Had my first squamous cell carcinoma removed 9 years ago at the ripe old age of 40. Two others since. I get skin checked every 4 months and always have 10 to 15 AK's frozen.

With red hair and fair skin from Scottish and Irish ancestry, the sun is not my friend. Growing up fishing, camping, and boating in South Florida during a time when they didn't have sun blocks is now coming back to haunt me. As a kid, I suffered some really bad, blistering sunburns which the doctor tells me is the main reason for skin cancer. I've been using sun block and long clothing for a long time although the damage has already been done. Keeping my fingers crossed on the melanoma front.

My wife, who is 100% Puerto Rican and can get nut brown and my son, who is Sorta Rican and can get a pretty dark tan get slathered with block right along with me before we go out in the boat or any other sun intensive activity. It only makes sense to protect yourself, regardless of skin tone.
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Old 02-06-2010, 08:30 PM
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Thanks for sharing. I have a big chunk missing out of my nose right now from a biopsy they took that was believed to be cancerous. Thank God it came back negative. Bottom line is do yearly checks...and wear sunscreen. So easy to do and can make all the difference in the world. Thanks again !
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:14 PM
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Like you guys I have to battle the effects of the sun on my skin. I had a dermo mistreat a basil cell for several years. He used Efudex or would freeze it. Result was having to have MOHS surgury on may nose that required skin grafing. I have an ongoing actenic kerotosis problem, primarily on my face and scalp. I treat with Carac about every 3 months, use Neutragena screen every day and a product called Shea butter with coconut milk as a moisturizer at night.
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Old 02-07-2010, 04:22 AM
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I had a dot of a mole or whatever on my nose for a couple of years. Never thought much of it then it started to get a little bigger but still very small. Then it started to bleed when I wiped my face off,then it started to bleed for no reason I went to the Doctor. I had to have a Plastic surgeon remove it ,under the skin it was the size of a marble and it was cancer. They got it all off but that shows you it doesn't have to be big......Sr.
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Old 02-07-2010, 06:32 AM
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Thank you for all the kind words and good wishes.

I only hope this post may help someone who has a problem just starting that can be removed early.

A1: you are right, the melanoma on my back was 1.1mm thick, the one on my primary node was .15mm. They do not have to be large to kill. They grow fast.
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