Skin Cancer: The facts
• Skin cancers are common in our community due to our high altitude
• Changes in moles or wounds that do not heal require medical attention
• Prevention is important; if you work or play outside, sunblock is critical and should be reapplied every two hours
• These cancers don’t go away, they only get worse, and are harder to treat when ignored
Q. What is the largest organ in the human body?
A. The skin
Dr. George Linhardt
Your skin covers a large surface area and is subject to scrapes, cuts, sun, snow, hot sidewalks and spills of all types. It’s important that we don’t overlook our skin when considering our overall health.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and living in a high altitude, sunny environment puts us at a greater risk. Other risk factors include:
Sun exposure – spending a lot of time outdoors
Blistering sunburns – if you experienced several blistering sunburns as a child or teen
Skin color – if you have fair skin, blond, red or light brown hair, blue eyes or freckles
Artificial tanning – if you use tanning booths, beds or sunlamps
With all that we know about what can cause skin cancer, gone should be the days of baby oil , a book, and a day in the sun.
While there are several kinds of skin cancer, these can be divided into three common types:
Basal cell cancer – This type of cancer is locally aggressive, meaning if you leave it alone, it will just get bigger. It may not spread to other organs but may be become more and more difficult to treat, becoming unsightly, bleeding and disfiguring. Local excision (conservative surgical removal) is the usual treatment. Depending on the location, other approaches may be used such as medication or freezing with liquid nitrogen. These cancers may appear as chronically flaking skin or a sore that will not heal or constant bleeding.
Squamous cell cancers are more aggressive and can spread to other parts of the body and lymph glands. They can appear as a non-healing or bleeding ulcer. They may have a ridge around the center that is raised. A low volcano may be a good analogy of what these look like. Unlike the basal cells, the surgery needs to be more aggressive with a larger margin clear edges) around the specimen. The skin cancer and the surrounding edges may be checked at the time of the surgery with a frozen section (immediate analysis) or await the final definitive examination. It is important not to ignore these as they can grow in locations that may make treatment very difficult and disfiguring as well as life threatening. Sometimes plastic and reconstructive surgery is required to properly treat these cancers.
Melanoma is the third type of skin cancer and is becoming more prevalent. It is usually dark , and irregular. A crushed black berry on the skin is a good description. It is often raised above the level of the skin, various shades of color. It is can be seen on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Any dark moles in these areas are reason for serious concern. Melanomas can be slow growing or rapidly spread and cause death. They can spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or in the groin. They can be found on the trunk as well as the arms and legs. They are categorized as to how thick they measure under the microscope as well as what levels of the skin they penetrate. Deeper and thicker melanomas require the lymph nodes to be evaluated as well.
Dr. Linhardt is a general surgeon offering services weekly at Driggs Health Clinic and Teton Valley Hospital. To learn more about Dr. Linhardt, please click here or www.georgelinhardtmd.com.
If you read my last blog about “Polarity” (and if you haven’t, you really should) then you know that I had signed up for a workshop to learn about champion thinking, and hopefully develop the tools to get out of my own way as I continue my journey toward wellness.
The group was small which made it difficult for me to hide from facilitator Christine Heilman, PhD. I was the only non-athlete in attendance, and the only person dressed in business-casual instead of jeans and a knitted cap. In other words, I was well on my way to finding excuses to excuse myself.
Being a mind-reader, Christine promptly began our session with some uncomfortable statements about people who isolate themselves from progress through self-limiting beliefs and self-doubt. She said that everyone is seeking ways to enrich the quality of their lives and that she would review basic mind-set tools for accomplishing that.
For the next hour, we did some group exercises, engaged in discussions, and learned about ACE: A = Attitude, C = Concentration, E = Execution (as in “get it done” not as in “let it perish”). I came away from the workshop feeling that I had learned something valuable and no, I won’t go into a bunch of details about the training because you should contact Christine and put yourself in her mind-reading gaze.
Do you like sayings? I sure do. Do you like mangling famous quotes unintentionally? Me, too.
It’s better to receive an honest slap than a false kiss.
As I ponder the ongoing shift of the Earth’s geo-magnetic pole, I can’t help but wonder if my brain is shifting right along with it. Instead of a change in the flow of lava, I’m experiencing a change in the usual flow of my sensors and synapses, which I think is in some way connected to electromagnetics, but then again, I’m an English Literature major with a minor in creative writing so what the heck do I know?
But I do have a few recent examples of significant internal changes; changes that defy all sense of logic.
For instance, my most favorite dog breed has always been Doberman Pinschers. I love their looks, size, sleekness, intelligence and playfulness. Now, however, I’m a slave to my son’s mini-Dachshund. I kiss this dog, I speak goo-goo to him, I carry him in my sweatshirt, and I let him sleep under my covers. My husband is disgusted with me over this turn of events and really, who can blame him?
For instance, my infatuation with Chris Hemsworth has been reduced to an “Eh” in favor of the creation of a separate reality in which I’m the object of desire for Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, I have a serious crush on a man who looks like an otter. Again, my husband is quite disappointed and he has every reason to be. I can’t help it, honey; my polarity is changing.
For instance, I was watching a recent show honoring The Beatles. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were sitting on the front row and they eventually got up and performed. It was wonderful and fun, and way back in the mid-sixties whenever my three siblings and I pretended we were The Beatles, I was always Ringo pounding on my mother’s biggest pots and pans. Back to the point, though, there were all of these people in the audience dancing and singing to songs that we all know, and I looked at most of them and I thought – Those people are too old to be rocking-out in public. I was embarrassed for them and proud that I have chosen to behave childishly only in front of my children.
Just a few seconds after I silently prayed that Yoko would stop shaking her booty, and that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson would stop twisting and shouting and just sit down and simply clap enthusiastically, I had a painful shift in my electromagnetic field.
Ringo is 73, he’s a former BEATLE for heaven’s sake and he still rocks the drums. Yoko Ono is 80 and doesn’t need anyone telling her to sit down. Rita Wilson is only four years older than me and could knock me down with one well-toned hip. I was then reminded of Julian Lennon whom I have met and with whom I had a rock-climbing date oh-so-many-years-ago, and who is now 50 and it struck me that I’m no spring chicken. (You’re not either, Julian.) To paraphrase the current Pope: Who am I to judge the behavior of the elderly when frankly, I’ve arrived at that doorstep?
What will I do with the next phase of my life now that I’m firmly beyond the half-century mark? It occurred to me while watching my now-geriatric idols and petting the little dachshund snuggled in my pajama top (while surreptitiously wondering if Benedict was somewhere in the crowd searching for me) that I still have goals from my younger days that I haven’t achieved, and that I had thought were important. What has been holding me back? Hint: ME.
After my head stopped throbbing from all of this electrical exchange, I girded my loins (I’ve just always wanted to say that and what does it mean, anyway?) and signed up for a workshop with Christine Heilman, PHD, ATC, CSCS (in other words, she’s not an English Lit major) that is supposed to help me “discover the central tenants of champion thinking to optimize performance” and “discover tools that strengthen [the] mind and body…to achieve a higher level of performance, health and life satisfaction.”
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Disclaimer: This blog discusses my personal wellness goals and is in no way a soapbox to tell anyone else how to eat, exercise and/or live their lives.