I worked outside for 10 summers in my younger years, so protecting myself from the sun has always been on my radar. Texas summers are no joke.
So imagine my shock and confusion to learn that even after taking all the precautions, slathered in sunscreen and donning large, floppy hats, that I had skin cancer.
It manifested as a small mass on my thigh, and I did nothing about it for YEARS. I noted it and witnessed its evolution on my body, but I never mentioned it to a physician, assuming it was just one of those weird body things.
Yes, me, the same person who just a paragraph before claimed that harmful UV rays and skin cancer were on my radar. How could I, thinking I was so prepared and knowledgeable, let this growth go unchecked?
It’s been successfully biopsied and removed entirely from my being, and I have a gnarly scar to prove it. But I invite you to bear witness to my cautionary tale of how you should never let an abnormal growth on your body go untreated.
In short: If you’re going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes, wear hats and sunscreen, because harmful UV rays are real.
The First Sign
Summer 2018 // I’m getting into my pajamas one evening when I happen to notice a blemish on the back of my thigh, kind of. It was more on the underside of my right buttock. You know, in the crease, where thigh meets cheek. Ugh! What a weird and unflattering area to get a pimple. But also, what a totally understandable area for a pore to clog.
So, of course, I tried to pop it, without success. It wasn’t sensitive or bothersome to me in any way, so I left it alone. It’ll work itself out, I thought.
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But it stayed for months, unchanging and unaffected by my occasional attempts to pop it. But I still wrote off its presence. It was small — about the size of a BB — and it didn’t cause any discomfort. So I accepted it as a skin imperfection and carried on with my life.
April 2021 // Three years later, my tiny blemish began to be uncomfortable. It was sensitive when I sat on it or when I applied pressure to it. And now it seemed larger, like the size of a chickpea.
And do you know what my first thought was? After years on my body, this thing is finally ready to be popped. I pressed and squeezed, and it hurt! And after all the effort, I was just bleeding and more sensitive than before.
Maybe it was finally time to see a dermatologist. Not for cancer, because that possibility still hadn’t occurred to me. So I continued to push it to the back of my priorities.
After another two months, I made an inquiry at a local dermatologist office. And another four months after that, I scheduled an appointment. Really, I didn’t think this bump was anything beyond a minor skin irritation. I just needed a professional to lance it.
The Dermatologist Visit
So there I was at my consultation, lying on a table with my pants around my knees, so the doctor can assess my butt pimple. I would have been embarrassed if I wasn’t so excited to get it off my body. So imagine my excitement when the doctor said she could remove it that day. After a quick biopsy, she off-handedly said she would send it to the lab for testing, but just as a precaution. She placed a single stitch and we scheduled a follow-up.
At my post-op, the assistant removed my stitch, and then informed me, almost as off-handedly, that the lab test revealed cancer cells in the mass they removed. She explained that it was a common form of skin cancer, handed me an informational pamphlet, and directed me to the front desk to schedule an additional, more invasive skin-removal procedure.
The news had been delivered so nonchalantly that I didn’t panic. But after at least 24 hours of research and reflection, I understood the reality that there was cancer in my body, and it was finally time to be more self aware and make skin health a larger priority.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The mass that had lived on my body for over three years was squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common form of skin cancer, behind basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Most people have heard of melanoma, which is the third most common.
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All of these cancers are very easily treated if detected early. You can perform routine self-exams of your skin and note any changes, and if you do notice something unusual, consult with your doctor.
Thankfully for me, my skin cancer was easily treated even after three years of neglect. I am more at a disadvantage, being fair skinned and having been routinely exposed to direct sunlight in my youth. Though because I took the necessary precautions against UV exposure, I assumed I had done my due diligence. However, all that meant nothing when I was actually faced with and then ignored a skin abnormality.
So, from one summer-loving Texas mom to another, if you aren’t sure what the weird body thing on your booty is, just go get it checked out. It could save you from having a unsightly scar, and also save your life.