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October 24, 2012 at 10:07 pm #20706HoolieBParticipant
Hi everyone. I’m a new poster here and was hoping you folks might have some calming information for me.
Last September, I had a melanoma removed from my right calf. It was .42 mm Breslow depth, Clark level 3. (I can copy the entire path report if that’s helpful.)
Prior to that I’d had lots and lots of biopsies and the occasional WLE for atypical nevi. In the three years leading up to the melanoma diagnosis, my biopsies were coming back as four benign to every one atypical. Since the melanoma, though, I’ve had an additional ten biopsies and every single one of them has shown some level of dysplasia, including three moderate to severe that had to be excised. Not a single mole has been simply benign tissue in over a year.
My question is: is this a concerning trend? Or am I overreacting? My doctor is a bit concerned and has me coming in every month. I’m OK with the frequency, since it feels like we’re racing to find something before it turns ugly.
Any thoughts/insights will be greatly appreciated!
JulieOctober 24, 2012 at 10:15 pm #57107cohanjaParticipant
I’m not a doctor, but I believe the vast majority of atypical moles do not turn into melanoma. The chances that a mildly atypical mole would change to melanoma is extremely slim (but, I know you’re talking about moderately to severely atypical).
Having lots of atypical looking moles is a warning sign for melanoma. The thing to watch for is change. If things are changing, then they are worth biopsying. You can take pictures to use as a baseline to compare against. Most atypical moles/dysplastic nevi never do change.October 25, 2012 at 3:48 am #57108hillcountrygirl2Participant
Wow, you sound so much like me (I had a .42 Breslow too)…lots of biopsies, usually with a basal cell for me, sometimes a squamous and I had another melanoma (in-situ). I, too, worry that I am just a big cancer-maker (or something like that!), but in reality, you and I are in a good place because we do go in for the checks that are finding all this stuff. In other words, if something shows up, then it’s EARLY. And as we know, early is good.
The only reason my melanomas were caught early is that I have been seeing my derm yearly since 2000 (and bi-annually since 2009) and so she found it. Had I never had all my other atypical, or basal cell cancers, or other stuff…I wouldn’t have been on that schedule, and likely she wouldn’t have caught it so early (it was on my back, so I couldn’t see it).
I know EXACTLY how you feel, but I think as long as you are going regularly, you are going to be fine!
I love how Catherine tells us to “live life”…easy to say, sometimes hard to do, but such good advice.
BetsyOctober 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm #57109Catherine PooleKeymaster
Sometimes I think doctors can put fear into us where it isn’t necessary. I know when I had melanoma, my derm was really upset, and nervous about it. The other two responses you have recieved are absolutely correct. Whole body photography is the best tool to watch your moles and skin. No one has that good of a memory otherwise of how your skin looked, say a month ago. You know your skin better than your doctor, so regular self exam is important. You can’t predict what mole or patch of skin might become melanoma. And dysplastic nevi don’t necessarily become melanomas. You have to look for change and thankfully you caught the one melanoma at a curable stage. So you can be fairly confident if anything arises again you will catch it early and then you just have to live in the moment and enjoy life!October 25, 2012 at 9:35 pm #57110HoolieBParticipant Thank you all for the responses! It is immeasurably comforting to know that my situation is not at all unique. Whew!
Thirteen months into this and I do realize how lucky I am. Stage I is a fortunate diagnosis with a generally excellent prognosis.October 26, 2012 at 8:02 pm #57111Lisa PParticipant
Hi, Julie –
Your situation sounds almost identical to mine other than that i’ve had three actual melanomas, he first one having been identified a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve had a lot of biopsies, with pretty much all of them on my back coming back as at least moderately dysplastic and fully excised. I look like I’ve been through a bear attack from the rear. This week, as my doc was excising yet another moderatlely dysplastic mole on my back, and told me its’ time to change strategies. As others have indicated here, she says there’s no proof that dysplastic nevi will definitely morph into melanoma, and that the chances, in fact, are rather low. Still, once we biopsy something because it looks “funny” (which all of mine seem to), it is necessary to do an excision on all that come back as moderate or severe. She explained the reasoning behind this, which I can’t actually remember at the moment, although it made sense at the time. So, what this comes down to is that my doctor had decided that each and every mole on my back is likely abnormal and that from now on, we will keep a close eye on anything that might be changing or anything that is new. Only those will be biopsied. Everything else will sit right where they are. I know how scarey all of this can be. I certainly have my moments. I also believe we’re the lucky ones who were given a warning signal by catching ours early on so we can stay on top of things and beat this damn disease. Hang in there and let me know if you have any questions or if I can help in any way. Sending you my best – Lisa
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