Scott Tushla: A Survivor Story

Scott Tushla
Date of Diagnosis: 05/08/2019
Age: 54
Colorado Springs, CO
Basal Cell Carcinoma

I was diagnosed after I noted an area on my nose that was concerning. I am a family doctor, so I see a fair number of patients with skin cancer. I had no symptoms. I saw the dermatologist whom I refer to in my network, who is a dermatopathologist as well. He diagnosed me with a basal cell carcinoma, which he removed with standard excision. I received support from my family in that we became more focused on sun protection and watching for any other suspicious spots. I don’t think I needed a lot of additional support, but I was familiar with Skin Cancer Education & Research Foundation, and I refer my patients to its website, skincancerinfo.org.

In terms of helpful tips, I think it’s common-sense information in terms of prevention that is important to know. I grew up in Southern California and did a lot of swimming outside for swim teams, ocean swimming, as well as surfing in my younger years. I am fair skinned, so I knew I was at an increased risk, but I think a lot of us born in the 60s were a little cavalier about the sun during our youth. I have learned to avoid the midday sun. When I go to California and I surf, I try to do so in the late afternoon. The water is warmer anyway. I also make sure to apply a water-resistant sunscreen before I go out, and I reapply frequently. I also like to hike, and when I hike in Colorado (where I live) or California, I use a wide-brimmed hat. Many of us guys run around in baseball hats, but they don’t provide enough protection, so buy yourself several sombreros and keep one in the car. I have a son now, and my wife and I really try to emphasize the importance of applying sunscreen, wearing long-sleeve shirts, avoiding midday sun if possible, and practicing good sun protection.

Like I said, I am very familiar with skin cancer, but I think more images of skin cancer in people of color would be helpful for me as a clinician. I think it’s great that there is a resource for nonmelanoma skin cancer—I think people are familiar with the ABCDE’s of melanoma, but they may not know what a basal cell carcinoma or a squamous cell skin cancer look like.

I am doing well today. My advice is to check and be familiar with your skin. If you have a partner, let them help. I know we can use mirrors to check our backs and other areas that are hard to examine but having a loved one check is also a good idea. The recommendation is to get to a dermatologist once a year for a skin check, but if you are not doing that, at least start talking about your skin with your primary care provider. I work very closely with my local dermatology colleagues, and some providers like me are well set up to evaluate your skin and perform simple biopsies. It can be difficult to get in with the dermatologist sometimes—particularly during COVID-19—so see if your primary care provider can help evaluate anything you are concerned with.