Add “Visit the Dermatologist” to Your Skin Care Routine

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© kudryavtsev from Getty Images Pro via Canva.com

My husband was diagnosed with his first bout of skin cancer at the age of 26. An annoying facial scab kept resurfacing, and he finally heeded his mom’s advice to visit the dermatologist. The biopsy results returned, and the scab was labeled basal cell carcinoma. Another spot, an itchy freckle on his eyelid, had also caught the doctor’s attention. It, too, came back with the same results. 

The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, is lesser known than its sister, melanoma. BCC is not a deadly form of skin cancer, but it can still be disfiguring and destructive. 

My husband’s treatment plan included a Mohs procedure. The cancer cells had grown deep in the skin since the lesions had gone undiagnosed for so long. Excision left significant facial divots on the eyelid and between the eyebrows. Reconstructive plastic surgery was therefore recommended. Two skin grafts were performed, one requiring the right eye to be sewn completely shut during the healing process. 

Since this original diagnosis, my husband has heard the words “skin cancer” six more times. His dermatologist has detected four additional basal cells and two squamous cells. Due to early intervention, however, only one of these spots has required follow-up facial reconstructive surgery. 

Watching a loved one go through this process has helped me learn a thing or two about skincare and skin cancer prevention. Limiting rays and using sunscreen are crucial, but so are self-checks and annual visits to the dermatologist. While stripping down in the presence of a doctor can be uncomfortable, it’s not any more invasive than a routine GYN appointment or mammogram. Lesions don’t have to take the shape of a sightly mole. They can be unassuming. Remember, early detection is key! Keep an eye out for any changes in your skin, including new moles or growths, changes in size, shape, or color of existing moles, or any spots that itch, bleed, or won’t heal. If you notice anything suspicious, don’t hesitate to schedule a visit with your dermatologist. Cancer cells that haven’t taken root deep in the skin are much easier to treat.

Skin cancer, especially nonmelanoma skin cancer, isn’t always perceived as a major threat. It is nearly 99% curative, but the methods for getting rid of it come at a steep cost. In a world where physical appearance means so much, lifelong scarring, especially on the face, can lead to self-consciousness and even depression. Adding an annual dermatologist appointment to the standard skincare routine can make all the difference in early detection and intervention.

In addition to regular skin checks, there are simple steps we can all take to keep our skin healthy and reduce the risk of skin cancer. Remember to apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily, even on cloudy days. Seek shade during the sun’s peak hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wear protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

By being proactive about our skin health and following these tips, we can all enjoy the sun safely and protect our skin for years to come. Here’s to healthy skin and a sun-safe summer ahead!

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