Jacki’s Story: Basal Cell Carcinomas and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer
Date of Diagnosis: 02/10/1997;
San Diego, CA;
Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Skin Cancer;
I had noticed a tiny pearly dot at the end of my nose for a year or so but I had no idea it could be skin cancer! Then a doctor’s visit for something else led to a suggestion that I needed to see a dermatologist. A punch biopsy, which left a small divot on my nose, was performed and when the diagnosis came back as basal cell carcinoma, I scheduled my first Mohs surgery.
The doctor drew a circle around the area that would be removed. At this point I was concerned, because I could see that more tissue than I expected would have to be removed. It really hit me that this was smack in the center of my face and could possibly be disfiguring. In retrospect, I was very fortunate that the surgeon was able to remove all of the tumor in the first round of cuts. The doctor scheduled me with a plastic surgeon shortly thereafter and I had a skin graft from my neck. It was extremely helpful that my sister flew in to accompany me and gave me moral support. I was so happy to have her there as we could try to make light of the situation.
The graft eventually healed, but ultimately, I went to a plastic surgeon for another reconstruction. My nose is fine now. Armed with the knowledge of what a basal cell carcinoma looked like, I found another one under my left eye. I was surprised that the dermatologist did not want to perform a biopsy, however I insisted. The doctor was upset with me and said there was no way it was cancer, which hurt my feelings, but she did the biopsy anyway. When the results came back as basal cell carcinoma, I changed dermatologists and had my second Mohs surgery.
On the same day as my surgery, I saw a plastic surgeon who was able to sew up the wound. Not as much tissue had to be removed as with my nose surgery, and the skin under my eye was more stretchy and forgiving than the skin on my nose. This second Mohs surgery had an excellent outcome.
A couple of years later when I was shaving my legs, I noticed that I had what looked like a basal on my middle toe! I went back to the dermatologist as I had now become a “repeat offender.” The biopsy indeed showed another basal cell carcinoma, and we joked about having a rare “Mohs on my toe” surgery. It went fine and I never worried about a little scar on my toe.
A couple of years later, I noticed a large aberration forming on my upper left arm. This time, a biopsy showed a squamous cell carcinoma. By now I was an old hand at Mohs surgeries, and again I was lucky to require just one round of surgery. Although the surgery left a bit of a dent and a long incision, it is now practically invisible. At my checkups, the doctor checks my axillary lymph nodes and has not found anything to worry about. I feel lucky to have had four very successful Mohs surgeries.
My recommendation to other skin cancer patients is to be suspicious of anything that seems out of the ordinary; I think it is better to request a biopsy when you have a bad feeling about something and don’t worry about appearing silly! One last thing to know is that scars do fade over time!