My Experience with Skin Cancer

  • Published
  • By Col Kerry M. Dexter
  • 22nd Medical Group commander
About 16 months ago, I was diagnosed with skin cancer and had lesions removed from my left cheek and from the base of my neck.

Fortunately, the type of skin cancer I had was basal cell carcinoma, which is the type that does not spread.

I went to my healthcare provider when a sore on my cheek would not heal. He did a biopsy and when it came back positive for cancer, he referred me to a dermatologist.

When I went to the dermatologist, she did a visual body scan to check me for any other lesions and found the one on my neck, which had been there for several years and bothered me occasionally.

She took the one off my neck immediately, but referred me to a plastic surgeon for removal of the lesion on my face. The referral to a dermatologist and then to a plastic surgeon for a lesion on the face is standard operating procedure.

The plastic surgeon removed the lesion on my face under local anesthesia, and thanks to his skill, I have only a barely noticeable, residual scar.

I learned a lot about skin cancer from this experience and would like to share some of it with you:
· Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and the number of cases diagnosed each year is growing at an alarming rate-more than one million Americans were diagnosed with skin cancer last year
· People with fair skin who sunburn easily are at greatest risk, especially if they have had at least one severe sunburn early in life.
· If you have a sore that will not heal or a change in a mole, you should see your healthcare provider.
· Ultraviolet light exposure, most commonly from sunlight, is overwhelmingly the most frequent cause of skin cancer.
· Limit your exposure to sunlight especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
· Apply sunscreen frequently when outside and use a sunscreen with sun protection factor of at least 15 that blocks both UVA and UVB light (the label will tell you). Apply sunscreen both before and during sun exposure.
· If you sunburn easily or are likely to get sunburn, wear long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat.
· Avoid artificial tanning booths.
· Conduct periodic self examinations.

My experience taught me early detection of skin cancer is usually easily remedied, and it is important for us to properly protect our skin.