Surviving skin cancer
May 9, 2013
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Michelle Bain shared her personal story of skin cancer on The Morning Show April 24.
"I began tanning in high school," said Bain. "I would go to a tanning salon for about a week or two before homecoming or prom -- big events -- but, mostly, I laid in the sun outside in high school."
As an adult, Bain used the tanning bed more often -- typically from January to May -- for about 11 years. Then, nine months after marrying her husband, she received news that would change her life.
"In 2011, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma," she said.
When she went to the doctor to check a suspicious mole, her doctor said it fit all the typical signs of melanoma. The biopsy was rushed through and she received a phone call the next day, a Friday, with the bad news.
A week later, her tumor had been removed. While awaiting surgery, Bain had begun to research what had happened and what she could have done differently.
She learned a lot.
"Normally, melanoma shows up in your fifth or sixth decade of life, after you've spent many years in the sun," she said.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer. Each year, more than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed.
Bain was awake for her tumor removal, which required 293 injections of lidocaine.
"The scar is about four inches long," she said, adding that the worst part of the surgery was her allergic reaction to the tape used to cover the wound. Becasue of it, parts of her skin came off when the tape was removed.
For the first year after her surgery, Bain visited the doctor every three months. She now goes every six months.
"My doctor does a full body scan," said Bain. "She goes over every inch of my body."
Every inch includes her fingernails, toenails and even her scalp, where one benign mole was found and removed.
Her tips for avoiding melanoma:
• "Tanning beds are a big no-no."
• "Sunscreen is very important. Not only is sunscreen important, but you have to apply it properly." This means applying a broad spectrum sunscreen, or one with zinc oxide, every 40 minutes.
She cautions that once someone has skin cancer, it is part of them for the rest of their life.
"You have to stay on top of it," she said.
Bain told of a scare in January -- a lump in her breast that turned out not to be cancerous, but gave her pause.
"You can't play with melanoma. It goes fast and it goes everywhere," said Bain.
She recommends everyone check their skin monthly for moles, to know what is there and spot changes. A blank body map can be found on the Skin Cancer Foundation's website at skincancer.org.
To determine if a mole is suspicious, there are five characteristics to look for:
A,--,Asymmetry -- if you draw an imaginary line through the center, do both halves look about the same?
B,--,Border -- is it round or are there pointed edges?
C,--,Color -- is it one color, two or several?
D,--,Diameter -- is it larger or smaller than a quarter of an inch?
E,--,Evolving -- does it change from month to month?
"Now, they've added a U, which is ugly duckling," said Bain. "If you have four moles and one looks really weird, you should have it checked."
Bain shares her personal experiences and information about melanoma and other forms of skin cancer on her Facebook page, Spread the Lotion, located at www.facebook.com/#!/SpreadTheLotionEducateAndEradicate?fref=ts.