I have the greatest respect for dermatologists. Not that it's an occupation I would like to do myself, you understand, but it's certainly a job that needs doing.
A few years ago I went to a dermatologist for something or other. Towards the end of my consultation he asked, "Is there anything else?" I replied "Well, only these liver spots on my arm, but I donít think you can do anything about those." (These darkish areas had been developing on my forearm for some time, but I'd just assumed it was a part of growing older.) The dermatologist took a look and said "Those aren't liver spots; they're [some incredibly complicated name that ultimately translated into dry skin]. Rub this cream on them and they'll go away." So I rubbed the cream on them and they went away. It was like magic (but better).
The thing to remember is that the skin is the largest organ in your body. (The definition of an organ is "a group of cells that work together to perform a specific function in an organism," so the skin definitely qualifies.) In fact, it's right up there at the top of the list as one of my favorite organs.
I now go to my dermatologist (Dr. Albert "Bo" Rivera, ruler of all he surveys at the Southeastern Skin Cancer and Dermatology practice in Madison, Alabama) once a year for a full body check-up. I went about four weeks ago. Building up to this event, I'd compiled a list of any bumps or blemishes that I'd run across, just to ensure I didnít forget anything in the excitement of the moment. On the occasion of my recent visit, I pointed to a small rough area on my nose and another on my cheek. Dr. Albert informed me that the first was precancerous and the second was nothing to worry about. He proceeded to freeze them both (after a couple of days you couldnít see a thing). But he then pointed to a small blemish under my eye that I'd not even noticed and said, "This, however, is cancer."
"Oh dear," I thought (or words to that effect).
So he took a biopsy just to make sure, and -- sure enough -- a few days later the results came in confirming cancer. Now, as I understand it, there are three primary types of skin cancer: basal cell cancer (originating just under the surface of the skin), squamous cell cancer (originating in the middle layer), and melanoma (originating in the pigment-producing cells).
Melanoma is the least common, but the most aggressive and the most likely to spread. Basal cell cancer (which I had) is the most common, but least dangerous. Having said this, although basal cell cancers may appear to be small, if left untreated they can invade deeper into the skin. What you see on the surface may not represent the entire tumor. The bottom line is that, if you donít do anything about them, basal cell cancers can end up being real bad news.
Anyway, to cut (no pun intended) a long story short, a couple of days ago I revisited Albert's surgery where he performed Mohs surgery on me. The simplistic view of Mohs is that they keep on taking a bit of you away, freezing it, and looking at it under a microscope until they are sure that they've got all of the roots of the cancer. Although this procedure can take a couple of hours, the end result is to spare the greatest amount of healthy tissue while completely removing all of the cancerous cells.
Generally speaking, I cannot speak highly enough of Dr. Albert and his staff. Sad to relate, however, they did fall down in a couple of areas. For example, there was some talk of a lollipop for a brave boy, and I was a very brave boy indeed, but no lollipop was forthcoming. Also, while I was reclining on the table, basking under the bright lights, waiting for the results from one of the slices, someone popped in and asked if I wanted anything. I ordered a bacon sandwich. I'm still waiting.
But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. The reason for this blog is that, when I came into work the next day, upon seeing my bandaged face, the other folks in the office asked, "What on Earth has happened to you?"
When I explained, the vast majority of them said "I really should go to a dermatologist myself," or "I've been meaning to go to a dermatologist for ages," or… I'm sure you get the gist.
The bottom line is that a lot of folks donít go to a dermatologist simply because they never seem to get around to it. Others donít go because they are worried as to what they might hear. Trust me, if there is something wrong, then the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. It's much better to get things sorted out as soon as possible. What are you waiting for? Ask around your friends for recommendations or perform an Internet search for dermatologists in your area and get the ball rolling. There really is no time like the present.
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting