That is the question. I had a growth removed from my cheek on Tuesday. It had resided on my face for the past 15 or so years. I wrote this up a couple of days ago. You can read it here.
The dermatologist said it looked inconsequential and there was nothing to worry about. He would call me about the biopsy results.
I got the call yesterday and the ‘inconsequential’ growth turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma BCC – skin cancer.
The Skin Cancer Foundation says that BCCs are abnormal uncontrolled growths that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of our skin. Usually caused by a combination of UltraViolet exposure. The good (?) news is that they rarely spread.
“There are an estimated 2.8 million cases of BCC diagnosed in the U.S. each year. In fact, it is the most frequently occurring form of all cancers. More than one out of every three new cancers are skin cancers, and the vast majority are BCCs. It shouldn’t be taken lightly ….”
I now need to go back in for further work. The tumor has been removed. That’s the good news. However, since it was cancerous, they need to be certain that there are no ‘stray cancer cells’ in my cheek.
So, on August 21 I will be going in for Mohs Surgery.
Here’s what the Skin Cancer Foundation says about Mohs Surgery: “What is Mohs surgery? It is the excision of a cancer from the skin, followed by the detailed mapping and complete microscopic examination of the cancerous tissue and the margins surrounding it. If the margins are indeed cancer-free, the surgery is ended. If not, more tissue is removed, and this procedure is repeated until the margins of the final tissue examined are clear of cancer.”
The cure rate of the Mohs technique is 99 percent, considerably higher than other methods.
As can be imagined the past 24 hours have been mentally chaotic for me. I went from just coming in from a bike ride and feeling great to finding out that I had a basal cell carcinoma removed, but we don’t know if they got it all. Hence the Mohs surgery appointment.
The frosting on the cake is that U.S. News Health reported yesterday that once most people have a single occurrence of BCC they are at risk of getting another. So this most common form of skin cancer should be viewed as a chronic disease.
How does this change my life? The jury is still out. I will continue to ride my bike in keeping up my cardiovascular and mental health. But, I will be scrupulous about using suntan lotion now. Ironically, I just wrote about protecting yourself from sunburn and skin cancer two days ago. I remember that I put in boldface type There is no such thing as a ‘healthy’ tan. I think I did that because I have always thought that I had a healthy tan that I earned from my summer riding. I guess I have learned otherwise.
So, if the dermatologist didn’t get all of the BCC out of my cheek on Tuesday, I have skin cancer. If he did, I don’t have skin cancer. I will know for sure on Tuesday August 21.