Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Basal Cell Carcinoma

I have been really excited about my new blog site and wanting to write another post each day, but didn't want to be a bummer. I have been going through an interesting time, lately. I have been diagnosed with several Basal Cell Carcinomas. I have so many lovely things to write about, but I just can't seem to write about anything else until I get this out. Some terms and names are clickable to links. O.K., here I go...

I had a tiny dry patch on the front of my forehead up by my hairline. I had it for about 2-3 weeks and just had a sense that it was suspicious, so I made an appointment with a new Dermatologist. She took a biopsy and I mentioned that I have had a small scab that never heals for about 15 years. You heard it right, 15 years. I don't know what made me not get that checked many years ago, but I just never did. Needless to say, she took a biopsy of that area, as well.

Five days passed and I just knew the news was not going to be great. My doctor, Dr. Hara Schwartz, called me on a Saturday morning to say that I indeed had Basal Cell Carcinoma in both areas. She said that I would have to have Moh's Surgery also called, Micrographic Surgery. This is the best type of surgery in order to remove the most (hopefully all) cancer cells, while leaving intact the largest number of healthy skin cells. This allows for the highest success rate with the smallest scarring. It was the preferred procedure for my circumstance.

So, as I write this post one scar is healing on my forehead with the stitches removed and the other is still freshly stitched. Due to the fact the the rear area was growing for so many years, it was necessary to remove a large area of skin. The surgeon was concerned that I might need a graft and plastic surgery in order to close the skin. He said this was because the open area was very large for the scalp and that scalp skin is not very stretchable. I was really upset thinking that I would need this additional procedure, because my grandmother had a skin graft along with skin cancer surgery years ago and I remember that she found the healing process very painful.

Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinoma run in my family on both sides. My father and my maternal grandmother have had many of these and are very fair skinned, like I am. Skin Cancers are caused by sun exposure and genetics. I always wear sunscreen, but was clearly not as careful as was necessary as a child and teen. I have my own children wear a high quality UVA/UVB sunscreen, such as Anthelios every day. They are so well trained, at this point I don't have to remind them...most of the time.

My Moh's Surgeon's name is Dr.David Kriegel who is a wonderful doctor in NYC who came highly recommended by my Dermatologist. Moh's Surgery involves a series of tissue removals which are each put through a variety of procedures. First the doctor removes some tissue. Then the sample is frozen and dyed and then checked under a microscope. The doctor checks the cells to see if all borders contain healthy cells. If there are any irregular (cancer) cells anywhere along a border or under the base, more tissue is removed. This process continues while the patient (me) waits either in the waiting room with a bandage or in the surgical room. I chose to remain in the surgical room to make it more efficient for the doctor and less transitional for myself. The rear of my head needed three tissue removals, which is why the opened area became the size of a silver dollar. I was pretty shocked to hear how large it was, because the initial scab that I had prior to visiting the doctor was very small, comparatively. It was about the size of my pointer finder's nail area. This goes to show how important the Moh's Surgery techniques are in order to make sure that all cancer cells are removed.

Now, in terms of healing and care all I do is sanitize my hands with Germ-X and clean the stitched area twice a day with peroxide and cotton balls and then place a bandage with lots of Bacitracin on it. The doctor said that I don't have to cover it anymore, but I find that because this one is in my scalp, over the hours my hair absorbs the ointment and eventually, the stitched area gets dry and unprotected. Therefore, I choose to wear the bandage. It looks very silly to have a bandage on the back of my head, sort of like a tiny square yalmulka, so I have been staying home. Not that there is anything wrong with tiny square yalmulkas, but that's just not my style. 

There is another reason why I have been staying home, also skin cancer related, which I will write about in my next post (am I cheerful enough?).

I suggest strongly that everyone have a full body skin exam to check for any abnormal cells. Skin cancer, such as mine, can just look like a tiny dry patch. This can be deceiving and only a biopsy can tell you, for sure, if the cells are normal or not. Take good care of your skin with daily high quality sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses in order to remain healthy.

I wish you great happiness, excellent health, and large daily dose of informed common sense.


  1. Ally - thanks for sharing all your wonderful resources... you are another day in towards wellness!

  2. Allyjoy, thanks for sharing your experience and resources, and kudos to your for protecting your children from the sun's damaging effects. My own daughter had a benign tumor removed from her cervical spine last year - it took the best doctors 3 years to detect what it was that causing her excrutiating neck aches - and I can't tell you how many times they told us it was nothing. The bottom line is, when you feel something is wrong, you have to be your own advocate and press your doctors until they find out what's wrong. I'm glad you found the problem in your case. The best of luck to you-Rivkah


  3. BCC is not so dangerous if it is traced in primary conditions. Moreover there are so many treatments available these days which will boost your health will eradicate all the infected cells from your body.

    Skin Cancer Treatment