About a year and a half ago, my dermatologist who originally diagnosed my suspected "melanoma in situ" said to me that we probably treated this "more aggressively than we needed to." Meaning that the skin they removed from my cheek was not actually melanoma in situ, though those cells could've had the potential to turn into that in the future. And a skin graft probably was not necessary (though she didn't use those words--she insinuated). I felt a sinking feeling, a regretful sensation.
Since my dermatologist had sent my biopsy to her colleague in 2009 for a second opinion, the confirmation from a second source was enough to help me make the decision to go ahead with the skin graft that I'd been strongly advised by my highly trained, well-schooled dermatologist to undergo. But everything surrounding that diagnosis felt uncertain to me, which is why I researched the types of stains that the pathology labs use and found that some read differently and it's not always a "sure thing" that it's a melanoma cell. I never felt that I could get enough information prior to my graft surgery. I couldn't find what I needed to be certain. I was searching for information and felt extremely under-educated about it, so I went blindly into the skin graft because I had been advised this was what I needed because the doctor sincerely expressed how serious (and deadly) melanoma can be. Scared the heck out of me.
I sat quietly on this for more than a year and didn't mention it here because I'll never know exactly why they went ahead and decided to cut so much of skin away if they weren't absolutely sure. I don't know why I didn't press further to be absolutely certain I needed it done. The doctor said to me that these cells weren't melanoma in situ "yet" but could potentially turn into that in ten years. This doctor seems like a very sincere, nice human being. Regrettably, I now have a big scar that probably wasn't needed, and if the brown spot on my face had been removed without taking such a large surrounding margin, I'd still have a scar but wouldn't have to be concerned about the spot any more (nor its potential to become cancer cells). In other words, I probably would have had it removed, but not with all the good, healthy skin surrounding the spot. The remaining scar would have been much smaller and I wouldn't have gone through such an emotional ordeal.
I didn't want to write about it here because I thought it may deter people from going to their dermatologists. That could cause some very serious cancers to be missed!
But I have to write about it today because I recently heard from one of my blog readers who has kept in touch with me via email since 2010. Unbelievably, she too has learned that a similar strange scenario occurred in her situation. Her new dermatologist reviewed the paperwork in her case and said she had not had melanoma in situ either! But she underwent the graft surgery thinking it was necessary at the time, just like I did.
So some diaganoses of "skin cancers" are not that at all, and apparently some people have had skin grafts unnecessarily. I only know of myself and one other person, so I don't know how widespread this is.
In hindsight, I think MOHS surgery would have been better in my case. Since my original spot was continuing to get larger with time, it is certainly something that should have been removed. I would not have just left it there to grow and worsen.
Nevertheless, I still went through it and I still have a scar. So I'm leaving the blog as it was written. I was led to believe I had melanoma in situ, so the emotions I experienced in 2009 still apply to those people who have it. And all the photos I've posted show how a skin graft looks, for those who unfortunately have to go to that extreme to remove abnormal cells. Cells, which I hope, have been accurately confirmed by more than one opinion.
Thanks for letting me vent.