Richard's story

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I have had psoriasis for about 30 years, since my late 20s. One of the treatments is ultraviolet radiation, which, the doctors caution, can increase the risk of skin cancer. But it’s a risk you take to keep your skin at least partially clear. That, along with growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, when we did not understand the risks of sun exposure (and my fair skin), made me realize that skin cancer was something I should watch out for.

Over the past several years, I had several precancerous lesions removed, either surgically or by freezing. Each time I thought, "Whew, I'm glad we caught that early!" However, in 2010 I noticed a small, pearly, raised spot on my stomach. Having psoriasis, I have gotten used to finding new spots on my skin, so I didn't think much about it. However, after a few weeks, I could tell it wasn't psoriasis. The dermatologist did a biopsy, which confirmed it was a basal cell carcinoma. He removed it surgically and later assured me he had removed all the cancer cells. It was small and didn't even leave a scar, so I considered myself lucky once again.

I’ll be seeing my dermatologist at least twice a year to check for any suspicious-looking spots.‚Äč

In the summer of 2013, however, I started to notice a scaly patch in my sideburn area, just in front of my ear. I thought it was another spot of psoriasis, but over the next several weeks it grew rather rapidly. I went to the dermatologist. He took a biopsy but said it was almost unnecessary; it was a squamous cell carcinoma. He performed Mohs surgery on it a couple weeks later and was able to remove all the cancerous tissue in two steps, taking about 3 ½ hours altogether. The only painful part was the brief needle stick to inject the anesthetic at the beginning of the procedure. The doctor was able to close the wound with a skin flap, and since it’s inside my hairline, it barely shows.

Once again, I was “lucky,” but each time the situation has been a bit more serious than the last. I’ll be seeing my dermatologist at least twice a year to check for any suspicious-looking spots. I’m also a lot more aware of the need for wearing sunscreen and a hat when working or having fun out in the sun.

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