Category Archives: skin cancer

Cancer Diagnosis Can Take Toll on Mental Health

The most common mental disorders affecting cancer patients were anxiety disorders and adjustment disorders, according to the study. Adjustment disorders occur when a person cannot cope with a life crisis, and are unable to function on a daily basis or maintain relationships with those around them, Mehnert said.

Cooking with Kathy Man

One out of three people diagnosed with cancer also wind up struggling with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, a new study from Germany reports.

Many people seem to cope with the natural stress of a cancer diagnosis, but for about 32 percent of cancer patients, the diagnosis may prompt a full-blown psychological disorder, said study lead author Anja Mehnert, a professor of psychosocial oncology at the University of Leipzig in Germany.

That’s much higher than the 20 percent mental disorder rate of the general population, she said. It’s important to note that although the study strongly links cancer and a mental health disorders, it wasn’t designed to prove that having cancer directly caused any mental health disorders.

“[Our] findings reinforce that, as doctors, we need to be very aware of signs and symptoms of mental and emotional distress,” Mehnert said. “We must encourage patients to seek…

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Three Weeks After Skin Cancer Surgery

I went back to the doctor this week to have the stitches removed from my back. That pretty much brought my third surgery to closure (pun intended).

To summarize, this go ’round with skin cancer was much stronger than my previous one, two years ago. In each instance I had a basal cell carcinoma removed. Two years ago, I had one growth cut out and ended up with about 15 stitches in my cheek. This time I had one removed from my cheek and another from my back. I had 15 stitches in my cheek again, but more than double that in my back. The facial scar is about 1.5 inches long while the one on my back extends to three inches. So, there was more cutting this time and as a result my body had a lot more healing to do.

Blazing+Hot+Sun

Two years ago I was riding my bike within five days of the surgery. In contrast, this year, I did not have the energy to ride for two full weeks. Then, when I returned to riding, I felt a lack of power in my legs which tired easily.

This year, I napped nearly every day for the first two weeks. Good naps that extended an hour and sometimes two. Clearly my body craved downtime.

In my third week, I have commenced riding again, but can feel limited by my condition. I am taking it slow. I rode around seven miles the first day and went up to 10 on the second. At the end of the third week I managed 20 miles today, but it was in two rides. I don’t think I could have done it in one bite. The good news is that I didn’t feel the urge to nap today. Last, but not least, I added one and a half pounds in the past three weeks with my sedentary recovery. I have no worries about burning that off going forward.

I feel that my life is coming back into its own now in terms of energy, if on a slow pace.

Since my first surgery I have been amazed at how many people I know have suffered from skin cancer in one form or another. If you would like to learn more about this important subject, I just put together a Page recounting my surgeries as well as general facts about it. Check out Skin Cancer Facts in General and My Three Skin Cancer Surgeries in Particular.

Remember, as my dermatologist said, “There is no such thing as a healthy tan.”

Tony

 

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Four Days Removed From Skin Cancer Surgery

I am now in the latter part of my first week following Mohs skin cancer surgery on my face and my shoulder to remove a pair of basal cell carcinomas. I have included links at the end for those of you who might want details of the operations.

My energy is returning slowly, but I am still following the doctor’s instructions to take it easy. I have not ridden my bike since the surgery. The doctor has also prescribed an antibiotic for me to take to fight possible infection in the incisions.

Each day following the surgery I have napped from one to two hours and then gotten a full night’s sleep, so I conclude from that my body is mending itself full time.

My girlfriend has been great about changing my bandages and putting fresh Vaseline on the cuts to protect them from infection.

I am including in this post some unpleasant photos of my incisions, but I thought they might be helpful for anyone who may be going in for surgery or simply wants more details on skin cancer.

cut
The first is a shot of the incision on my face. It measures about 1-1/2 inches. We shot this about 48 hours after the surgery. I wanted to keep it sealed up in the hospital’s original dressing until we had to change it. There were 15 stitches.

The second photo is my shoulder. It measures three inches long and was also taken 48 hours after the operation.

photo 2
Since I had similar surgery on my face two years ago August, I know how these scars can heal. Last year I did a post with photos of the scar a year later. I used Emu oil and coconut oil on the scar regularly to help heal it. You can judge for yourself how well they worked. The post is How Emu Oil and Coconut Oil Hid a Facial Scar.

Here are the links for my earlier posts on this surgery: I Have a Second Skirmish with Skin Cancer, What About Life After Skin Cancer Surgery?

Back in 2012, I did a series of posts on skin cancer which you can find by typing  the words skin cancer into the SEARCH box at the right.

Tony

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What About Life After Skin Cancer Surgery?

I had Mohs surgery Wednesday to remove a basal cell carcinoma on my cheek and another one on my back. I wrote about this being my second skirmish with skin cancer a couple of weeks ago. You can read about it if you want the details.

This is how Mohs surgery works.

This is how Mohs surgery works.

Yesterday was the first day of the rest of my life. The operations took three hours, but at least one hour of that was waiting time. In Mohs surgery, they remove a section of skin and then take it back to the lab to see that they got all the cancer out. If they did they sew you back up. If not, they remove some more skin and go back to the lab for another look. For my two growths, they got it all the first time on my cheek, but had to go back in for a second cut on my back.

My girlfriend met me at the hospital about halfway through the procedure and then we went to lunch to celebrate my being cancer-free. The condemned man ate a hearty meal. It was a great relief to be finished with cancer for now and, hopefully, forever. Remember, I had two fresh wounds on me with at least a dozen stitches in each. I went home, walked the dog and then crashed for two hours.

They gave me a sheet of do’s and don’t’s to protect my stitches. I can not drink alcohol because it thins the blood and may contribute to post operative bleeding. The following is underlined: Avoid strenuous exercise which raises your blood pressure, as well as bending and lifting  that causes your muscles and skin to pull, which may interfere with wound healing.

As regular readers know, I don’t smoke and I advise strongly against it. Here is what the post operation sheet says – Avoid smoking. Smoking reduces the blood supply to healing stitch lines and drastically worsens the appearance of the scar.

I drove 15 miles to the riverboat yesterday for some non-taxing video poker. That certainly wouldn’t strain any muscles. I was surprised to learn that within a half hour, I was v e r y tired. I cut my visit short and found myself worried about falling asleep on the short drive home. I even considered a different route that would keep me off expressways. Long story short, I made it home all right, but took a big nap that ate up the afternoon.

I was low energy the rest of the day, had a light meal and watched a football game from the weekend on my DVR. Went to bed early.

I am writing this Friday morning, I am still low energy after a full night’s sleep. I am not in any way ready to resume riding my bike yet. I feel funny not having any rides or other exercise, but my body doesn’t seem to mind it at all. I listen to my body. First things first.

This is clearly a one day at a time deal.

Tony

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First Rate Tips on Preventing Skin Cancer – ADA

Much of the country is suffering under extreme heat as the summer takes its time drawing to a close. So, many of us are playing and laboring under a hot sun.

Last week I wrote about my second skirmish with skin cancer so the subject is near if not dear to me.

The power of the sun can be brilliant as you can see in this presunrise shot of the Chicago Lakefront. That doesn't mean the UV rays can't be cancerous.

The power of the sun can be brilliant as you can see in this presunrise shot of the Chicago Lakefront. That doesn’t mean the UV rays can’t be cancerous. Wear protection.

Here are some tips from the American Dermatological Association that my doctor gave me. I hope you will pick up something useful from them and avoid going under the knife as I must on September 10.

The ADA brochure stated:

Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers. Here is what you can do:
*Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all skin not covered by clothing. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
*Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.
*Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.

*Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand because they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
*Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.
*Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product or spray, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

Tony

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I Have a Second Skirmish With Skin Cancer

As regular readers know I contracted skin cancer two years ago this month. I have included the links to the posts I wrote at the time and inserted them in the final paragraph if you would want the details.

This year our local hospital Northwestern Memorial offered free skin cancer screenings, so my girlfriend and I went on June 18. We each learned that we had a couple of ‘bad’ spots that needed to be removed for a biopsy. My girlfriend got her biopsies done last month and both came back negative for cancer. I had to wait a couple of weeks because I was using a new dermatologist. I had my two trouble spots removed last week and I got the results yesterday. Not good. Each was a basal cell carcinoma – BCC. Skin cancer. Again.

Don't be fooled by this smiling face. His rays are deadly.

Don’t be fooled by this smiling face. His rays are deadly.

As I wrote last year, “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 ….”

For the record, after my surgery of August 2012, I practiced ‘safe sun’ with the zeal of a reformed whore. I bought several sunblocks, always the ‘broad spectrum’ variety that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Often when riding my bike I would wear a white long sleeved shirt to protect my arms from the rays. So, I was disappointed to learn that the spot on my face and the one on my back are both cancerous. I guess, on the positive side, I did not have more of them. I would like to think that my efforts to avoid skin cancer had some good effects. Also, each one is about half the size of the tumor I had removed two years ago.

I have booked my Mohs surgery for next month. On September 10 I will go back under the knife.

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.”

This is what happens in Mohs surgery. They take more than a layer.

This is what happens in Mohs surgery. They take more than a layer.

The cure rate of the Mohs technique is 99 percent, considerably higher than other methods.”

Here are the links for my first cancer posts: Do I Have Skin Cancer? What Did I Learn After Being Diagnosed with Skin Cancer? What Happened During My Skin Cancer Surgery?

Following are further posts on the subject for you: Important Facts About Skin Cancer, What You Need for May – Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Tony

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What You Need to Know for May – National Skin Cancer Awareness Month

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Makes sense. We should be coming into some sunny days right now. (Unless you live in Chicago as I do where we still have March temps).

In order to get through the coming sunny days herewith a list of links of all the items I have filed on skin cancer and sunburn since the blog began in 2010. This includes my own bout with skin cancer in 2012.

Looking at your face in the mirror, things that change in size, shape or color can be skin cancer.

Remember the words my dermatologist told me, “There’s no such thing as a healthy tan.”

Blazing+Hot+Sun

Myths and facts about sunburn and sunscreen

Vitamin D and Your Body – Harvard

How to protect yourself from sunburn and skin cancer

Do I have skin cancer?

What did I learn after being diagnosed with skin cancer?

What happened during my skin cancer surgery?

What about exercise after surgery?

Important facts about skin cancer?

What to do about extreme heat

Tony

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How Emu Oil and Coconut Oil Healed a Facial Scar

In August 2012 I was diagnosed with skin cancer. Briefly, I went in to have a lump removed from my cheek and it turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma. I went back in for Moh’s Surgery and had it removed. If interested you can read about it in detail on my Page Skin Cancer Facts in General and My Three Skin Cancer Surgeries in Particular.

My scar two weeks after the operation.

My scar two weeks after the operation.

My surgery left me with a scar just over an inch long with 15 stitches in it on my left cheek. You can see the first photo of it from two weeks after the surgery.

My scar today just short of 12 months after the operation

My scar today just short of 12 months after the operation.

Full disclosure time. I am a senior citizen over 70 years old. Getting a scar like that on my face at a time when my body is no longer generating new cells as it did when I was young left me with expectations of a bit of a facial disfigurement in my future.

What to do about it? Plastic surgery is out of the question for me for financial and other reasons. Continue reading

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Important Facts About Skin Cancer

The incidence of melanoma is rising, according to Mary Martini, MD, FAAD Associate professor Dermatology, Director, Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Clinic Northwestern University.

Dr. Martini said that in 1900 the incidence of melanoma was one in 2000. In 2004 it had risen to one in 70 and by 2012 melanoma incidence had climbed to one in 58. Melanoma is the rarest form of cancer, but it is the most deadly.

Melanoma is an odd duck. The website Second Opinions points out that “During the 1980s and early ’90s more than a dozen studies compared histories of sunburn in patients with melanoma and controls. But differences in design and definition of sunburn make it difficult to quantify a single estimate of risk.”

“There is five times more melanoma in Scotland on the feet than on the hands. And melanoma in Orkney and Shetland is ten times that of the Mediterranean islands.”

Dr. Martini was speaking before a Northwestern Memorial Hospital Healthy Transitions Program® .

sun-drawing
Another sobering statistic she offered was the changes in overall cancer mortality from 1975 to 2000. Prostate cancer mortality has fallen five percent, breast cancer mortality has fallen 15 percent, colorectal cancer is down 25 percent, but death from melanoma has risen 28 percent. Continue reading

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What is Cancer and How Do You Come Down With it?

Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases, according to June M. McCoy, MC, MPH, JD, MBA, Associate Professor of Medicine and Preventative Medicine speaking before a Northwestern Memorial Northwestern Memorial Healthy Transitions Program®. Cancer is not contagious, you can not catch it from someone.

Dr. McCoy said that of the most common cancer risks, the Environmental ones accounted for 70 percent to 90 percent of the cases.

Environmental factors include:
* Second hand smoke
* Asbestos
* Radon
* Ultraviolet radiation
* Pesticides

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The Agony and The Ecstasy of Summer Biking

As we move into summer it seemed appropriate to write about riding my bicycle in the heat. I know for a lot of folks cycling season ends in September.

The first photo shows the ecstasy of summer biking being out on the Chicago lakefront enjoying the beauty of the parks and the skyline.

The Ecstasy of summer cycling on the Chicago lakefront

The second photo shows the agony of biking when you don’t make an effort to wear sunscreen. It is the scar from my Mohs surgery to cut out all traces of skin cancer remaining in me. If you missed it you can read about my discovery that I had skin cancer and subsequent surgery in my posts of the past two weeks.

This is my surgical scar with nearly two weeks of healing behind it. Agony indeed.

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Myths and Facts about Sunburn and Sunscreen

At the risk of sounding like a reformed whore, now that I have succumbed to skin cancer, I am being extremely careful about protecting myself from the sun’s rays as well as everyone I meet who has a ‘nice tan.’ I may have become obnoxious in my zeal.  I was especially interested in the talk on skin cancer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Healthy Transitions Program® this week. Here are some tips I picked up there.

There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. So says Dr. Neda Ashourian of the Northwestern Skin Cancer Institute, Ltd. Speaking before the hospital’s Healthy Transitions group, Dr. Ashourian said that the best you can get is water-resistant sunscreen. So reapply when you come out of the water.


On that subject she said that when buying sunscreen to get SPF 30 or greater. It is critical to look for the terms Broad Spectrum on the container. If those words aren’t present, the sunscreen, no matter how high the SPF rating, may not protect you from the damaging Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays of the sun.

Some other dangers from sun included – windows. The UVA rays can penetrate windows, but not the Ultraviolet B (UVB).

You can get sunburn on a cloudy day because 80 percent of the sun’s rays penetrate clouds and fog.

At the beach sand reflects ultraviolet rays so you have to be doubly careful there and be certain that you have fresh sunscreen on. You need to reapply sunscreen after two hours because it wears off.

Finally, the end of summer is not the end of danger from ultraviolet light. Snow reflects UV light so you need to protect your face when skiing or engaging in other outdoor activities.

I have written about sunburn several times in the past couple of weeks and I want to reiterate probably the most important concept I have learned,  namely there is no such thing as a healthy tan. I am disturbed to realize that as I have always prided myself on the nice tan that I got out riding in the sun. But, a “nice tan” is the siren song of skin cancer. Pay her no heed.

On a related subject, please check out my Page – How to Deal With Extreme Heat.

Tony

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What Did I Learn After Being Diagnosed With Skin Cancer

The obvious answer is I learned that my body had become a host to a horrible disease. It is just short of a week since the ‘something’ I had removed from my face turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma – skin cancer. This is an unnerving event for anyone. But, I think it was more so for me.

As regular readers know, in the two plus years since we started the blog, I have enjoyed just stunning good health. I dropped 15 pounds that I hadn’t even realized I was carrying as excess weight. I went from 165 down to 150 pounds. I now wear size 30 waist jeans, a size I haven’t worn since high school. My body fat measures below 17 percent. My resting heart rate is under 50 beats per minute vs the high end of a normal of 60 to 80 for someone my age. In short, riding my bike nearly daily here in Chicago and paying attention to what I eat has paid off in spades. I have grown to expect that I am in near perfect condition. So the skin cancer news was doubly disturbing for me.

I got a sun hat to protect my dog, but neglected to use sunblock myself. You can see the lump on my left cheek that turned out to be skin cancer.

The first night I made it to around 2:30 a.m. then got up and wrote a blog post about it to quiet the turmoil in my mind. I had little energy the rest of the day and managed only 21 miles on the bike. Went to bed early that night but got a good night’s sleep. I think that writing the blog post on the previous day freed my mind up somewhat and I woke up rarin’ to go with loads of energy. Walked the dog, put on my sunblock and had a 30 mile bike ride that morning. The only reason I quit was because I was worried that the sunblock had worn off and I hadn’t applied more. I had loads of energy left.

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Do I Have Skin Cancer?

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 ….”

This is how Mohs Surgery is done

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How to Protect Yourself from Sunburn and Skin Cancer

Here are some basic facts from skincancer.org:

• Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually.
• Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
• One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
• Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

I had a procedure done by the Dermatology Department of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Along with the info on how to care for my ‘wound,’ they included some powerful suggestions on how to protect yourself from skin cancer. I wanted to share it with you as it seems to be very thorough and helpful. Maybe it will help you to avoid the situation I found myself in – needing skin cancer surgery. I certainly learned some useful facts from it.

Sunlight contains ultraviolet radiation that can damage your skin. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is responsible for tanning, wrinkling and premature aging. Ultraviolet B (UVB) causes sunburns. Both UVA and UVB can damage the skin and cause skin cancer. There is no “safe” ultraviolet radiation. There is no such thing as a ‘healthy’ tan. (Emphasis mine)
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