Traci French thought she was dealing with an ordinary but stubborn blemish when she noticed the spot on her lip five years ago.
"It was very flaky, it looked like dry skin." French living in Monrovia, California told TODAY. "It would turn a bit red and then it would look like a pimple would start. Then it would disappear and the dryness reappear. "
The now 50-year-old French woman was worried that the stain would return again and again and showed it to her dermatologist dr. Shirley Chi in Arcadia, California, at her annual skin exam.
"I usually know right away that it's skin cancer. But in this case, it just really looked like a pimple, "said Chi. "It looked like a skin-colored bump."
She recommended that French wait a few months to see if it would disappear. If this was not the case, Chi shaved a sample for a biopsy. The diagnosis: Squamous cell carcinoma, a common skin cancer that occurs most commonly on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the head, neck, back of the hand and lower legs, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
French I had spent a lot of time in the sun from grade 8 to high school doing sports like football and softball. She used sunscreen, but not always on her face.
About 700,000 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. Chi called it the second worst form of skin cancer after melanoma, as it spreads to other parts of the body and can potentially become life-threatening.
However, if detected early, squamous cell carcinoma will be considered highly curable.
People may not think so much about the area around the lip when they apply sunscreen, said Chi, so the lips can be vulnerable. The type of sunscreen used can also determine how much protection they receive. A recent study found that applying SPF moisturizer to the face is worse than traditional sunscreen because of the lack of skin.
After her diagnosis, French just wanted the spot removed. In the summer of 2016, she undertook a Mohs microphotographic operation to remove all cancerous tissue while maintaining as much healthy skin as possible. The doctors had to remove a quarter-size lesion and then reconstruct their facial area.
French "Somehow freaked out" when she saw how much meat had to be taken out and the recovery was painful. But she is satisfied with the progress of the operation, relieved that the cancer has disappeared and is pleasantly surprised at how well her lip has healed. There remains only a small, hard-to-recognize scar.
She's putting on more sunscreen now and wearing a hat when she's outdoors in the sun, she said.
What does a squamous cell carcinoma look like?
Looking for a new bump or scaly body on your skin that does not disappear, Chi advised.
People with weakened immune systems – including those with organ transplants that are infected with HIV or taking medicines that suppress their immune system – have a higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
How To Protect Your Entire Face From The Sun:
Dr. Chi gave this advice:
- To protect your lips, apply lip balm with sun protection factor every day, even on cloudy days, and especially if you enjoy exercising outdoors and being active. "On a cloudy day, people forget that they need some protection, and then they burn themselves," she said.
- To protect the eye area, use a sports sunscreen that typically contains less than normal formulations. Always wear sunglasses when you are out or driving on a sunny day, as you also get a lot of UV radiation through the windshield. Some make-up powders also contain LSF.
- Do not forget to apply sunscreen to your ears, including the rags and tips.
- Be vigilant: If you have a non-healing stain on your skin, contact your dermatologist.  A. Pawlowski "class =" headshot ___ 3D_6B w3-print "/>