Sunday, February 10, 2013

One of my posts makes me saddest...recurring sores and cancer

One post on this blog is, by far, the most popular and reading the numbers about it makes me sad.  Titled "CAUTION  - recurring sores may be skin cancer", this post gets more and more hits everyday and that's what makes me sad. The posts come from all over globe, about half from the USA but many others in Europe, India, and former USSR block countries.  If people are concerned enough to research sores or pimples that won't heal, it means they have reason to worry for themselves or likely someone they love.

If you're one of those readers, know that I hope and pray for YOU, for anyone, that dermatology care (skin doctor) is affordable and easy for you to find.  I worry about the  un-insured, who won't visit  a doctor because they can't pay for it. Or people who ask a regular family doctor who will not take it seriously.  I know of two cases where the patient's regular doctor would not make a referral to a dermatologist or the dermatologist got it wrong.  One other, my nephew, didn't take it seriously and was uninsured.  My husband asked for a biopsy only to stop my nagging and it turned out to be cancer.  His physician never looked at his skin and only referred  him for a biopsy because he wanted to help my husband get off his case.

The bullets below describe these cases.  I will add that - none have passed away even though they got treatment more than 3 years ago.  I hope that offers some comfort to know that many of these skin cancers, if caught soon enough, are can be treated and are not fatal. 

Here are the  cases and their symptoms.
  • My husband, age 49 at the time:
    location: side of his nose, middle of his nostril
    appearance:  erupted as a pimple then healed up for about 3 months then erupted again, when not "a pimple" it was red and looked like a tiny cluster of capillaries or small blood vessels.
    prognosis: very good; it was caught  very, very early so they just cut out a small portion of his nostril, there is a small divot there now but it's hardly visible. If he gets too tan, it remains white but he should not be out in the sun anyway.   It's been 3 years now and it looks better and smoother all the time.  While the incision was healing he kept it covered with a band aid when he went out in the sun so that the healing skin would  not darken permanently.
  • My nephew, age 28 at the time:
    location: side of his nose, middle of his nostril
    appearance:  erupted as a pimple then healed up, when not "a pimple" it was red and looked like a tiny cluster of capillaries. The cluster grew as time went on.  After a year he attempted to treat it with some kind of "black salve".  This seemed to burn the skin and made it look horrible but did nothing to help it heal. If anything, it made things worse because it delayed his surgery and the cancer grew bigger.
    prognosis: pretty good because he was young.  It was caught  early enough that surgery was possible but they had to remove his entire nostril and replace it with a flap of skin from his forehead.  He was in a lot of pain during the three weeks it took for the flap to graft onto his nose.  He had a 4 inch incision running up his forehead and the flap had to remain attached near his eye brow so that it got blood supply as it "grew" into his nostril. After a month he had another short procedure to sever the flap and close everything up.  It's been 6 years now and his scars look better and smoother all the time.  He avoids the sun at all costs but as a teen and young adult, he regularly got terrible sunburn during the summer.  He's convinced that this is the main cause of his cancer. I must note that 1 year after this surgery, he felt a small tingling under his eye and it turned out to be cancer as well. He caught it early so it was easily cutting out and there is little scaring.
  • My friend, age 60 at the time: two types of cancer
    location: cheeks and bridge of nose
    appearance:  scaly patches on cheeks and a very smooth patch of pale skin on the nose. She was treated for psoriasis on her cheeks for at least 5 years before going to a new dermatologist who did immediate biopsies and found cancer.  The dermatologist noticed the patch on her nose had no visible pores so ordered a biopsy of it as well, it was also cancer.
    prognosis:  very good, subsequent check ups reveal no return of either cancer. Both were slow growing types of cancers. She believes that if she had not gone to a new dermatologist she might have a very bad prognosis. She will tell anyone - follow your hunches, be an advocate for yourself and get pushy with your doctor or find another if you feel it's necessary.  Even psoriasis should respond to treatment after a while. She was embarrassed that she waited 5 years to seek a second option.
  • My friend's mother, age 82 at the time
    location:  top of the bridge of her nose and down the side, the region where eye glasses would rest against her skin.
    :  red blistered patch of skin that would seem to heal a bit then get worse again.  She had very fair skin and was sensitive to perfumes and dyes. Her general practice doctor told her and her daughters it was irritation from glasses or sunglasses, even though he was told over and over she didn't wear glasses, not even reading glasses.  One visit to a new doctor and he sent her to a dermatologist without question, he was immediately quite concerned about it.  We believe that the original doctor didn't care because she was elderly, beginning to demonstrate age-related forgetfulness and her only insurance was medicare. 
    prognosis:  good because it was a slow growing cancer, subsequent check ups reveal no return of the cancer. 
 Recurring pimple on nose, recurring sore on nose. sore that won't go away, sore that will not go away, pimple that will not go awayreoccurring lesion on nose,