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Ann Wilson - Skin Cancer Survivor

I had a spot on my nose that just wouldn’t heal, so I went to my dermatologist who did a biopsy. The results indicated that it was a basel cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer. The doctor said that there were a couple of options: one was a Mohs surgery which is outpatient surgery with a local anesthesia and where the lab work is done in the office. It would also require me to see a plastic surgeon who would graph skin from my ear to use on my nose.

Another option was radiation therapy which would require me to go to a radiation oncology office every day for a couple of weeks and receive short treatments. The prognosis was almost identical for both treatment options, so it was up to me to decide which treatment I preferred. As I discussed what I should do with my family, two of my brothers noted they each had the Mohs surgery with skin graphs and both had experienced pain, especially where the skin was removed from the ear. Both of my brothers also have some scar tissue remaining as a result of the surgery.

When I spoke to a radiation oncologist, he told me that I would need to come in 14 times to receive small painless doses of radiation. He noted possible side effects could include my nose becoming red and scaly, but that it would ultimately heal with no lasting scar. Deciding to do radiation therapy was a no brainer for me since I hate the thought of surgery or scar tissue on my face.

My first appointment with my radiation oncologist took about forty-five minutes as the technicians made a mask of my face and the doctor planned and calibrated the machine for my treatment. For the next 14 days, except weekends, I had radiation therapy administered. The process was simple: the mask was fastened, a wet gauze pad was placed over my nose and then I received a quick dose of radiation. Each visit never took more than fifteen minutes from start to finish.

As I discussed my progress with my radiation oncologist, I told him that I had no discomfort until the last two treatments when my nostril become slightly uncomfortable with a red sunburn-like feeling and the skin around my nose got a little wet and peeling. The inside of my nostril hurt and eventually scabbed. That only lasted about a week as it healed from the inside out. It has now healed completely and looks great. Well, as great as a 70-year-old nose can!

I would highly recommend radiation therapy and encourage other patients to ask their doctor for all their treatment options, even if it means a referral to another specialist.

Learn more about Skin Cancer.