First Lady Treated for Skin Cancer - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/19/06

First Lady Treated for Skin Cancer

It happened in late October, when Mrs.Bush noticed a sore on her leg that wasn't healing. A biopsy revealed the tumor right before Election Day. A nickel-sized patch of skin was removed using a local anesthetic.

The cancer was squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer. About 200 thousand people every year are diagnosed with the disease.

It can sometimes look like a growth that only grows bigger and doesn't respond to treatment. Or in Laura Bush's case, look like a cut or lesion on top the skin. " A sore that doesn't heal, anything that looks ulcerated that doesn't heal is suspicious for a squamous cell skin cancer," said Dr. Rebecca Campen.

Dr.Campen is a dermatologist in Savannah, who treats hundreds of patients every year with the disease. She wasn't too surprised by the news of Laura Bush's brush with skin cancer. " Laura Bush came from Texas, so she had a lot of sun exposure."

Excess sun exposure is usually how most types of skin cancers form. While squamous cell isn't as dangerous as melanoma, it can spread. The growths usually start just underneath the top layer of the skin and can look like just a rough patch of skin. " It can feel like a little piece of sand paper," explained Dr. Campen.

If caught early, like Laura Bush's cancer was, most doctors will remove the diseased part of the skin. But if left untreated, squamous cell could have some disfiguring results.or deadly consequences. "Some people have lost ears from having skin cancer," said Dr. Campen," If it's untreated, if someone had squamous cell skin cancer for a long time, it could metastasize to other organs. That's when something becomes potentially deadly."

95 percent of squamous cell carcinoma tumors can be cured. If caught early enough, usually no other treatment is necessary, although patients should have regular skin check up's every six months. Dr. Campen also said the best prevention for any type of skin cancer is to always wear sun screen, with an SPF factor of at least 15.

Reported by: Melanie A. Ruberti; mruberti@wtoc.com

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