Hi friends. At the age of 28, I was diagnosed with Stage I melanoma on my scalp. The lesion is underneath a substantial amount of hair about 1.5 fingers away from the hairline of my forehead. I was very lucky to have detected this early.
I spent my childhood in Australia, so have always been quite paranoid about sun exposure and skin-cancer. I have had regular checkups since high school, annual checkups since college, and obsessively apply SPF 30+ sunscreen and wear hats. I don't avoid the sun, but always keep my head covered while reading, and wear a hat in the water. I've had two moles removed that were normal (paranoid, see!), and do have quite a few moles throughout my body (Asian/Italian heritage).
Just before the December holidays, I noticed a slightly painful bump on my scalp and thought it was a pimple. It bled a little bit, and I figured it would go away in a few days. Surprisingly, I developed a scab. After the scab fell off, I noticed a brown mark. Over the next few weeks, I noticed this brown mark growing. I thought I was being paranoid, but scheduled my annual dermatologist appointment for when I returned to NYC just in case.
My dermatologist is Dr. Rahat Azhar, and this was the first time I had seen her. She took a shave biopsy of the lesion, and checked the rest of my body. 1 week later, the biopsy came back confirming melanoma. I was diagnosed with a .38mm lesion, and she advised me to have it removed as soon as possible.
Needless to say I was devastated. The emotions that surge through a person when they hear the word "cancer," are quite powerful, and the tendancy I have to hop onto pubmed and do research were not helpful in my situation. All I found out was that I had been diagnosed with one of the most fatal types of skin cancer, and that an early stage diagnosis could still lead to complications.
I was referred to MSK, but was told that I would have a 4 week wait period. I was then referred to NYU, where Dr. Shapiro got me in for an appointment the next business day. I will say this - if you are in NYC and need to have a doctor who knows how to balance humor and facts, this is your guy. I have never met a kinder surgeon, and am so glad that he took me on as a patient. He had me scheduled for the first available surgery, and removed the lesionn and a thin margin of tissue.
The surgery went smoothly, and my pathology showed clean margins. I'll now go for check ups every 3 months, and have alerted my family to go and get checked.
The fact that we caught this is a miracle. I am so grateful for good dermatologists who know what to look for, for my mother who made me paranoid about that hole in the ozone layer, and for my husband who took care of me every single second until I was back to normal.
I head out to Tanzania to go set up a refugee camp next week, and have packed many hats and a few tubes of sunscreen.
Skin checks save lives - don't forget the scalp.