Suspicious Spots May Warrant Second Opinions

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Caring for aging parents may mean asking for second opinions to keep them healthySecond opinions are definitely worthwhile! A beloved relative spotted a weird "thing" on his leg and asked his son if he knew what it was. His son thought it might be a bug bite and they tried putting on antibiotic ointment for a few days. When it didn't go away, they scheduled a doctor's appointment. Their P.A. (Physician's Assistant) looked at it carefully and told them to apply heat to it and monitor it. He said to return if it got bigger.

A week later, at a routine appointment at the podiatrist, they asked that doctor to take a look, since it was somewhat close to the foot. He looked at it carefully and advised them to have a biopsy as soon as possible. He thought it might be squamous cell cancer.   My relatives said they would make an appointment right away with their dermatologist. The podiatrist was pleased, but added, "If he won't biopsy, come back and I will." They appreciated him saying that and told me later that it added impetus to their concern.

Five days later, they went to the appointment at the dermatologist. He looked at it carefully and said it probably was not Squamous. My relatives were silent, (remembering how concerned their other doctor was and trying to figure out how to handle this situation). The silence apparently made the skin doctor a bit uncomfortable so he added, "…I really think it's fine, but I can biopsy it for you, if you'd like." Much relieved, my relatives said they would appreciate it and the fast, mildly painful biopsy was done.

Seven days after that, the dermatologist called to apologize. "It was, indeed, squamous cell." Of course, they scheduled an appointment immediately to remove this cell and called the podiatrist to thank him profusely for his concern and help!

Skin cancer has three types. According to the NIH (National Institute of Health) Senior Health site, " Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are very common in both older and younger people and are rarely life-threatening. Melanoma is a less common, yet more serious, type of skin cancer." But as our skin doctor did point out, squamous cell carcinomas that are ignored OR missed can be a definite health hazard. As CNN writes, "Untreated squamous cell carcinoma can destroy healthy tissue around the tumor, spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, and may be fatal, although this is uncommon." 

Needless to say, this was a good wake-up call for all of us caring for aging parents. Generally speaking, doctors, physician's assistants, and nurse practitioners are usually very well-trained and wonderful resources for our families. But no one – other than God – is perfect and mistakes do happen. So it's definitely worth while to keep checking, keep following up, ask questions, request tests, and get second opinions. How about you? Do you agree or disagree?