Over the summer, I noticed this odd “bump” pop up where my hairline and forehead meet. I didn’t think much of it, though, because I randomly get acne. Fast forward to early September, and that spot started bleeding after I accidentally scraped it while combing my hair. A red flag went off in my mind as I’ve heard stories of people with unusual marks that would bleed and turned out to be skin cancer.
The next day, I called my dermatologist’s office to schedule my annual skin check (only 9 months late- whoops). The fastest I could get in for a full body scan was at the end of September.
At the appointment, the Physician’s Assistant was also concerned with the spot and took a biopsy of it. She told me about two types of skin cancer- basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Both types are a slow forming cancer that untreated could metastasize (aka spread) throughout my body. Melanoma is another skin cancer but she did not think that was what was on my head (thank goodness). Thankfully, the rest of me checked out just fine.
A week later, I got the call that I was expecting: I had a basal cell carcinoma that needed to be removed. The only way to remove it is surgically… with a scapal. Due to the location, MY FACE, the surgeon would use the Mohn’s procedure. This process is done by cutting slivers out of the cell/area then looking at them under a microscope. This process allows you to get clean margins before you are sewn up and get to leave the doctor’s office. Almost 100% of the time, the cancer never returns to that spot. But the trick is, the doctor doesn’t know how big, deep, or wide the cell is until the surgery begins.
Four days later, I was at the dermatologist’s office for my Mohn’s surgery. I brought my husband along for emotional support and I am glad I did. The procedure was much more intense than I was expecting.
The nurse shot my forehead up with local anesthesia (ouch), trimmed the hair along my forehead and covered my hair/face with gauze. Then the doctor came in to begin the procedure. He was teaching another doctor about the experience and through their conversation, I learned that I was very young to have this skin cancer 😦 and that they had to do special cuts due to my skin’s young age. Thankfully, they were able to get clean margins after only one round of cutting which meant that it wasn’t too big. Thank goodness I caught this early.
Then came the hard part, stitches. For some reason, stitches were not on my radar for this procedure. I was expecting some bleeding but assumed a bandaid would do the trick. The Physician’s Assistant said it would be a little more intense of a procedure than the biopsy. Man, I should have googled that to truly prepare myself. The dermatologist had to cauterize my blood cells to get the bleeding to stop then did several internal stitches followed by external whip stitches (about 12) to close up the whole incision. There was a lot of pulling and pushing involved too. Yes, it doesn’t sound like much to you but it was a lot more than the bandaid I was expecting.
The procedure caused lots of soreness that afternoon and in the days to come. Even icing it was painful due to the pressure of the ice on my head. It was also really annoying to have a bandaid on my hairline for a week not to mention aquaphor in my hair. Washing my hair was really painful too as the weight of the wet hair pulling on the incision hurt. Combing it also hurt.
But, they got all the cancer out and didn’t have to go back a second or third time for more. The location wasn’t really ideal for the procedure, but it’s now a perfect place for the scar! So, it’s hard to complain too much.
What You Should Know
Get your skin checked annually AND wear sunscreen! I am hopeful that this is the end of skin cancer concerns for me but realistically, due to my age and that I have already had it once, I am concerned that it may strike again. I am much more diligent about sunscreen now and even though it’s close to my hair, being sure that the area is covered well.
Interesting info from my Dermatologist:
- I have family members who have also had basil cell carcinoma’s removed. Because of this, I thought it might be genetic. It’s not but the factors around our lives are very similar- sun exposure, skin type, geographic location, and sunscreen usage.
- Sunscreen: Every two hours that sunscreen is exposed to the sun, it’s effectiveness (SPF) is cut in half. So if you put on 30 SPF at 8AM and immediately are in the sun until 10AM, then your sunscreen is at a 15 SPF. BUT, if you put on sunscreen at 8AM and do not enter the sun until 2PM, it’s still at 30 SPF.
It was a painful process, experience, and procedure, but I am grateful that we caught it early, that more deeper cuts were not needed, and for great health care.
I hope my story will help you be more diligent with your own skin. We only get one set of skin- so let’s work to take care of it the best we can!