A Spot is not always just a Spot

Actinic Keratosis

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

About three months ago, when I was drying off after taking a shower, I noticed that there was an area on my face that felt tender.  Not sore, just that when I moved the towel across it I noticed.  I checked it out in the mirror and saw that I had a slight pink spot on my face.  I really didn’t give it too much thought and went about my day.  I would totally forget about the spot until the next day, in the shower, it would again feel tender. 

As time went on the spot became more noticeable, changing from a slight pink to more of a red and it appeared to have a scale or dry skin over it.  I thought that perhaps there was something in there that just wasn’t healing so I put some peroxide on it in the morning after getting out the shower – bad idea!  This just made it even redder and the spot became bigger.  I stopped the peroxide. 

I switched from peroxide to lotion and that did seem to help.  The spot shifted back from red to more of a pinkish hue and decreased a bit in size, but three months later and I still had the spot.  My mom has horrendous psoriasis and so I was concerned that I too may be heading that direction and I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist. 

Five minutes into my appointment I had the diagnosis – Actinic Keratosis.  This is a small, scaly patch caused by too much sun and it can be an early warning sign of skin cancer, specifically Squamous Cell Carcinoma.  The treatment was easy enough.  The dermatologist brought out a can of liquid nitrogen and froze the area on my face.  The process was quick, taking just a minute or so, relatively painless, and I was told that it should be healed in 8-10 days.  No more Actinic Keratosis and no more risk of skin cancer.

These types of patches typically occur on the head, neck, or hands, but can be found elsewhere.  Fair-skinned, blond, or red-haired people with blue or green eyes are most at risk.  If you discover an area on your body that just doesn’t seem to heal, don’t wait three months like I did.  Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist and have it checked out.  It may be nothing, but then again, it may not.  Better to be cautious than cancerous.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

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