I’m all about advocacy, and knowledge being power, but lately – I haven’t done the best job of taking my own advice when it comes to my risk for skin cancer. Even though breast and ovarian cancer are the two biggies when it comes to BRCA risks, there are other cancer risks that come with the BRCA mutation as well. Specifically, there is an increased skin cancer risk with the BRCA2 mutation, which is the one I have.
My mom (also a BRCA2 carrier), was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2008 (it’s now gone, woohoo), which also makes my melanoma risk higher. I’m usually good about going to the dermatologist for skin and ocular melanoma checks every 6-12 months, which is the recommendation for BRCA2 carriers. I wear face and body sunscreen every day, and makeup containing SPF. I basically stalked Sephora and Shiseido when my favorite foundation suddenly lost its SPF factor on the label (still figuring out that mystery).
The last time I went in for a skin check was over a year ago, in July 2014, before my prophylactic mastectomy. Between mastectomy complications, recovery, reconstructive surgery, finishing nursing school and becoming a nurse – I didn’t practice what I preached – I went over a year without going to the dermatologist. Luckily, my observant hubby noticed a mole that suddenly looked different. He urged me to see the dermatologist and I kept saying “I will, I will. As soon as [insert excuse here] is finished I’ll make an appointment.” I kept delaying making an appointment and he kept asking me to make one. He even ratted me out to my mom who also got on the bandwagon. Flash forward to a few weeks ago, when I went to a 2 day oncology nursing course. We had a section on skin cancer and that put me in check to make a dermatologist appointment.
I had my appointment yesterday and my dermatologist asked if there was anything of concern to me, and I pointed out the mole. To give you some context, the dermatology office has bookmarks they give out that have the ABCDE‘s of melanoma, and my mole definitely fit most of the categories. My dermatologist agreed that she was concerned about the mole, and biopsied it, along with one on my back that she’s not as concerned about. I liked the doctor a lot, she’s a straight shooter and gave me all the information I needed, in case the mole is melanoma. So now I’m a bit sore from the biopsies, and a bit freaked out waiting for my results – which take 10 days to get back. I’m trying to think positive, because the results could totally come back that everything is a-ok, but it could also be melanoma, so I’m just hoping for the best but being realistic about all the possibilities.
If it’s melanoma, I most likely caught it early enough (knock on wood) that all they’d need to do is an excision to remove it, and that’s it. Of course that specific treatment doesn’t always remove everything, so testing/procedures could be necessary. Inpatient, quick, and pretty easy. So, as a reminder to all my readers, make sure to go to all your doctor’s appointments!
If you have a BRCA2 mutation or family history of skin cancer, get those annual skin checks. If you notice a mole that changes or fits the ABCDE criteria, get it checked out!
Please send good vibes about the biopsy results and I’ll keep everyone posted as soon as I hear back!