Fabgrandpa’s MOHS Surgery

Fabgrandpa and I in 2010

Fabgrandpa and I in 2010

This photo of us was taken in 2010. Looking at this photo, I think I can see the first skin cancer even then, on the right side of his nose. A spot just a little darker than the rest of his nose. Maybe I’m just imagining it, because I know where it appeared first. He had the first basal cell cancer removed at the VA in Prescott Arizona on July 1, 2011.

mohs surgery for skin cancer

At Mellow Mushroom in June 2014

Several months ago, we both noticed another place on his nose, this time on the bridge right in the middle. I asked him to go to the VA to get it checked out, but he said it was just a pimple. You can see it in the photo above. And yes, it did seem to go away, and come back, then go away again, several times. A couple of weeks ago, he had an appointment with a dermatologist at the VA in Birmingham. They did a biopsy on three spots, and all three came back as cancerous. There were two basal cell carcinomas and one squamous cell carcinoma, in a cluster on Fabgrandpa’s nose.

excellent cancer treatment at the kirklin center in birmingham

The Kirklin Clinic

Fabgrandpa was referred to The Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham by the VA, because the VA did not have anyone on their staff who could do the MOHS surgery that was needed. We did not know anything at all about The Kirklin Clinic, but it turns out that it is one of the best cancer treatment clinics in the southeast. This is from their website:

With over 257 exam rooms and many nationally-ranked specialties, the Clinic’s staff combines clinical care with teaching and research to produce an environment that is in the best interest of the patient. In order to tailor our treatments to our patients and families’ needs, we collaborate and communicate with them to provide them with the ultimate patient experience and highest quality care

When we were checking in to our hotel on Sunday night, there was another couple checking in at the same time. She has breast cancer, and was referred by her doctor in Florida to the Kirklin Clinic. So, we felt that we were in good hands there.

Waiting to be called back for his surgery.

Waiting to be called back for his surgery.

On Monday, we took the hotel shuttle over to the clinic. We found out first hand that they really do take the patient’s best interests into consideration. There were four doctors, two of whom were students, and three nurses assigned to Mr. Fabgrandpa. They welcomed me to stay in the room while they operated, and must have asked me a dozen times if they could get me anything. They brought coffee and snacks, and still asked if there was anything they could do for us.

Dressed for the occasion

Dressed for the occasion

They got Fabgrandpa suited up in his open backed gown and on the table, then drew some lines and dots on his nose where they would be operating. Next, they started the anesthesia, which was shots into his nose. They did all they could to make sure it hurt as little as possible.

basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma

Ready for surgery to start

Dr. Huang was the doctor in charge. He and the other doctors perfomed MOHS surgery, which is “accepted as the single most effective technique for removing Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (BCCs and SCCs), the two most common skin cancers.” (from Skin Cancer.org website). In MOHS surgery, tissue samples are sent to the lab during the surgery, not after. The surgeon can know for sure that they have removed enough tissue right there while they have the patient on the table. Unfortunately, Fabgrandpa’s lesions were deep, so they had to take a lot of tissue to get all of the cancerous ones. Then, they had to take skin from his upper chest to make a skin graft to close the two largest wounds.

mohs surgery for skin cancer

He was still smiling though it all.

Those skin patches will never match the color of his nose, but they look a lot better than the deep wounds that were there. When it heals, it will be just another sign of victory over cancer, and that is what counts for me.

If you suspect that you have a skin cancer, don’t wait to get it treated. There is a whopping 97% to 99.5% cure rate for basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer when treated with MOHS surgery.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone practice monthly head-to-toe self examination of  their skin, so that they can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. Skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable. Learn about the warnings signs of skin cancer and what to look for during a self examination. If you spot anything suspicious, see a doctor.

Because someone loves your cute little nose (or your big ol snozz!), do it!

April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Close to 43,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 43,250 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years.

In case you didn’t know, April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Fabgrandpa is an Oral Cancer Survivor, since 2001. The treatment for this awful disease is surgery, radition, and or chemotherapy. Fabgrandpa had the surgery, and then 37 radiation treatments in 2001. Luckily he did not have to go through chemo. Not every patient with Oral Cancer is as  lucky as my husband is. Some of them die, some of them have disfiguring scars, and others lose the ability to eat using their mouth, and have to be fed through a tube for the rest of their lives.

The key to preventing a death, disfigurement, and a feeding tube is early detection of Oral Cancer. One of the easiest ways to find Oral Cancer is to just look in your mouth and nose. Ask your dentist to do a routine check for Oral Cancer when you go for your regular checkups.

Great Expressions Dental Centers in the Atlanta area will be offering free oral cancer screenings to the public throughout the entire month of April – Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Call them today to make an appointment for your free exam.

Here are ways to help prevent Oral Cancer:

  • Avoid smoking and any type of tobacco product. According to the National Cancer Institute, tobacco use is the leading cause of oral cancer. Tobacco includes cigarettes, pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco. Not only can use of these products cause oral cancer in the mouth but also parts of the throat.
  • Limit alcohol use. Using alcohol is a large risk factor for oral cancer. The more alcoholic drinks consumed daily, the higher the risk of oral cancer. The risk is about twice as high in people who have three to four alcoholic drinks per day compared to those who don’t drink alcohol, according to the National Cancer Institute
  • Sun exposure. Repeated exposure to sunlight may increase the risk of lip cancer, which most often occurs on the lower lip. Applying chapstick with sunscreen everyday will help prevent sun damage and cancer.
  • Regular dentist visits and self-examinations. Scheduling your six month exams is a great way to keep a healthy mouth. The dentist is the first line of defense in identifying dental health problems that may be associated with oral cancer, so it’s important to meet with them regularly and ask for an oral cancer screening. In addition, be sure to take a few minutes each month for a self-exam to see if you can see or feel anything suspicious including lumps; bumps; tender areas; and any white, red or grey patches. If these symptoms are found, contact your dentist immediately.
  • Brushing and flossing daily. Brushing twice a day with a fluoride based toothpaste is critical in removing bacteria that causes cavities, gingivitis and bad breath. Flossing sometimes is easily forgotten, however, if you don’t floss, you will miss cleaning 35 percent of your tooth surfaces. Flossing in the evening will remove bacteria that like to feed on food particles throughout the day and prevent bad breath.
  • Spotting early and advanced indicators. Early indicators of oral cancer include: red or white discolorations of the soft tissues of the mouth, any sore that does not heal within 14 days and hoarseness which lasts for a prolonged period of time. Advanced indicators of oral cancer include: a sensation that something is stuck in your throat, numbness in the oral region, difficulty in moving the jaw or tongue, difficulty in swallowing, ear pain in one side only, or a lump that develops in the mouth or on the neck.

    The giveaway package--you'll get all of this!

    The giveaway package–you’ll get all of this!

To get more information about Oral Cancer, its symptoms, and treatments options, check out the Oral Cancer Foundation website.

In help you get a good start on oral health, GEDC is sponsoring a giveaway of a great package of dental products. One winner will receive a package containing a Great Expressions Dental Centers tote bag; a Phillips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush; a Phillips Sonicare Air Floss; a travel bag with toothpaste, a toothbrush, a toothbrush holder, and floss; a Zoom Tooth Whitening Pen, a water bottle, and a lip balm.

Enter to win this package using the Giveaway Tools entry form below: