I am the first to admit there was a period of time in my life when I was a sun worshipper. I laid out in the sun to read or even just to relax. I also worked as a lifeguard for several summers. In the winter, I was a part-time professional downhill ski instructor. In all cases, wonderful bronze skin was a crowning achievement for the time I spent outside.
Often, the first sun exposure for any season meant sunburn. I just expected to get "a little" burned in the process of conditioning my skin for the tanning season. Unfortunately, too often the burn was more than "a little" due to using a liquid magnifying glass (baby oil, SPF minus 50) as my sunscreen.
There were also a few years that I used tanning beds in the winter to prepare for warm beach vacations as well.
All of my sun sins admitted, I have taken better care of my skin since my late 20s. I apply sunscreen generously and often. I literally never leave the house without it even if it is only on my face. Because I know my continued passion for endurance sports puts me at risk for skin cancer, I have had annual full-body checkups by a dermatologist for many years.
This year, I was diagnosed with skin cancer on my lip. Perhaps what I have learned in the process of diagnosis and treatment can help you identify the symptoms that took me much too long to detect.
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You Know Your Body Better Than Anyone, So Trust Your Gut
About two years ago, I noticed a small red patch on my upper lip. It was really small, about half the size of a pencil eraser.At times it was barely noticeable. I searched photos on the Internet for anything that looked similar. I found nothing.
The patch wasn't raised, dry, bleeding, scaly or any of the other normal descriptions for skin cancer. When I had my skin check that year I didn't even mention the patch because I really didn't think much of it.
Last year when I had my annual skin check, I asked the new dermatologist to take a look at it. She looked at it and said, "Oh, it's nothing. Don't worry about it."