I will admit that in my younger days I have sat out all day in the sunshine and not even had any sun cream with me let alone put any on! I can think of at least three occasions when I have had sun stroke. And to top that off I went through a period of about 18 months where I would use sun beds once or twice a week too. As I recall all of these times I sit and shake my head. You see just two months ago I had a small mark on my back removed and it turned out to be BCC skin cancer (Basal Cell Carcinoma).
Before we moved to Scotland I had been to see my GP to get a mole on my back checked out because it was itching and was raised. The GP had no concerns over the mole but I thought whilst I was there I would get them to check out a dry bit of skin on my shoulder blade. Without hesitation the GP told me that this was BCC skin cancer.
I wasn’t expecting that!
Basal Cell Carcinoma
So what is this skin cancer that I had never heard of? “BCCs are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin).” – Quote taken from Skin Cancer Foundation website. The Doctor had told me not to worry it could be removed and is not life threatening but I would be susceptible to more in the future! Great….
Skip forward, passed our moving to Scotland and to a visit with my new GP. She confirmed that it was indeed a form of skin cancer and made a referral to my local hospital.
The minor operation itself lasted about 45 minutes. I was awake and had had a local anesthetic and couldn’t feel a thing but feeling like a right plonker that maybe “if only.” So many “if only’s.”
I ended up with three internal and nine external stitches. Twelve stitches for that tiny mark on my back!
I did actually take the opportunity to have a look at the piece of my back that had been removed. Very interesting to see all the different layers and how deep this thing had actually gone!
The next day I had some help removing my bandage. “Oh bloody hell, that’s huge” came the words from the Dude. As I turn my back to the mirror and look over my shoulder I say similar words! We actually measured it, it’s two inches long, diagonally across my shoulder blade. Wow.
Sorry the image isn’t that great it was taken on my phone by the Dude so I could see it properly but you get the idea.
The photo’s really don’t do it any justice but they shouldn’t have to.
I love the sun and how it makes us feel but is it really worth this?
So how can you prevent or lessen the risks of BCC or any other, more harmful, skin cancer?
- Use SPF 15 or higher every day. The suns rays can still do damage in winter! Apply 30 minutes before going outside.
- Never use UV tanning beds
- Wear a wide brimmed hat
- Cover up with clothing
- Seek shade 11am – 3pm
- Check your skin for changes in moles or marks
You can even buy clothing impregnated with SPF for extra protection – for both children and adults. Well worth looking into.
My BCC skin cancer may have been removed but that is not the end of it. Already, with these last couple of days of glorious sunshine in Scotland, I am super paranoid about being out in the sun. I now tend to wear long sleeved tops and SPF 50 on anything the sun can see, with the accompaniment of my Tilley hat. It’s all about being sensible and I get that. Enjoy the sunshine but please be careful a tan isn’t worth all this (or worse).