Today I had a medical appointment (I’ll talk about the “what up” with that later, but it was just a trial program for a medicine that was a good fit for me), and ended up with some news that deflated me a bit.
With trials like that, they test you for a little bit of everything. ECG, blood work, height (5′ 9 1/2″), weight (230 dressed), medical history, etc., etc., etc. I knew about what to expect (because I’ve done one as a test for a quit-smoking drug), and patently waited through it all. Eventually, you get to the point the doctor shows up, checks over the vitals, asks questions, and decides if you’re a fit for the study. Added bonus, you get a pretty good health checkout, and get paid for it 😉
The doctor was looking over my stuff, and ran across that I had once already been treated for Basal Cell Carcinoma (the reverse question mark on my left cheek from a skin-flap procedure – it took them twice to get it all, the first one being a dime sized piece of tissue, the the second a quarter sized. That’s a lot of tissue removed from a small area.) He looked at it, looked at me, and asked “Wait, how old are you?”
“43. Yeah, I know, everyone comments about it being fairly young for it.”
Basal Cell Carcinoma tends to appear in the 50’s and older. BCC tends to be a really slow appearing form of cancer (and, not particularly dangerous), taking decades to fully form. Most of the time it’s based on ultraviolet light exposure, though other things like long-term exposure to arsenic can cause it in rare cases. For some reason, mine manifested a bit early.
The doctor begins looking me over, and his eyebrows raise a bit. He asked me to take off my hat, and tracing areas on my face with his finger. “That red stuff across here,” he said, touching the right side of my face near the ear, then moving under my cheek “it’s pre-cancerous tissue. So is this”, tracing across my right eyebrow, ” and this.” pointing at a spot between my eyebrows.
He gave me some verbal information about it (which basically boils down to “watch those spots, if they develop legions or start oozing, go get it fixed.”), and talked about a possibly proactive treatment (which basically boils down to an ointment that ends up taking care of it, for about a year to three years, then it may be a concern again), and we moved on to the whole clinical trial thing that I was actually there for (credit to him: none of what he looked at and talked to me about had anything to do with the clinical trial. He had already signed off on the BCC as being a “past problem” rather than a current issue, clearing me for the trial.)
I came home and took a long nap. While I don’t have the blood work back, the rest of my initial health checkup for the trial showed me as being in really good health, as usual. I probably have high triglycerides (I still smoke, and it goes with the territory), but I’d be willing to wager nothing else interesting shows up on the blood or urine test.
It’s unlikely that the pre-cancerous tissue becomes anything other than BCC – about a 10% or less chance it ends up being squamous cell carcinoma (more dangerous than BCC) or a melanoma of some sort (much more dangerous than BCC – but, because it’s on my face, it’s really, really easy to see when a melanoma is developing, and get it treated early!)
But, knowing that I’m going to end up going through surgery on my face again eventually is sort of depressing (even with the cream, it’s hit or miss if it works. Basically, 80% that it removes it, but if it’s got any depth to it, there’s a good chance it comes back.) It’s not an if – it’s a when. I’ve already got a pretty interesting scar from the first one. In the next couple of months, after I get on my own insurance, I’m going to set up an appointment with a doctor (gotta find one I like), and start looking at some of the proactive solutions.
I’m really not fond of the idea of ending up with a face full cancer treatment scars as I age. Fortunately, now that I know, it’s likely that any further scars will be smaller than the one from my first surgeries. I’m not the most handsome guy to start with, but start adding more scars like the one I already have… yeeks.