College Park Views: More cancer screening awareness, please

Enea Ostrich

It was just last year that I wrote about cancer patients and ways they cope with it.  This year it’s a bit different.  I wish I had mentioned the importance of cancer screening.

No one ever thinks about this until they deal with it.  I would like to change that by writing this today and hopefully making someone see that they should not ignore symptoms that they don’t understand or can’t explain for themselves.

Recently my husband observed a mole on my back and told me to get it checked out.  It was weird because I had noticed that I was itchy in that spot and later I found out why when the doctor gave me my prognosis (it was pre-cancerous, thankfully).  Now I am an advocate for people to get skin screenings at the dermatologist’s office.

Although my mole wasn’t serious, the doctor cut it out and stitched it up.

After 11 stitches I have learned an important lesson—never procrastinate when it comes to your body.  I was one of those that thought you had to have a long family history of cancer on the skin—I was wrong.  About two weeks after I got my stitches out, I was screened again and the doctor found another slightly suspicious mole and performed yet another biopsy.

By that point, I felt like it was nothing compared to the first one.  What I found out when I got my stitches out was that this second mole was “irregular” but did not require surgery.

What it does require is to come back every six months to be screened.  The dermatologist doesn’t have to convince me of the importance of this process because I will do it in three months instead.  What I have learned about cancer prevention has saved my life and also saved me from having to go through treatments for melanoma—the well known, deadly skin cancer that I could have had, had I not seen the doctor.

Interestingly, a cancer screening could have also been beneficial to a co-worker in one of my workplaces as well.   In his case for cancer it wasn’t so obvious because he never complained at work.  He was always doing his job and no one knew about his private life.

On Mother’s Day this year his mom said to him, “Son, you look yellow and you are getting too thin.”

It took his own mother to tell him that.  I can’t blame his co-workers for not saying anything—they all thought he was going through stress and since he kept to himself prior to this big reveal, they had no idea he wasn’t taking care of himself.

Before he went on an undetermined leave from work, he admitted that he hadn’t taken the time to go to the doctor and that cancer was a disease that plagued his own father before his death.

What prompted him to take care of himself were his mother’s words, God bless her.

I think people you love are the ones that tell you things you need to know, so if I can reach out to one person that is reading this right now, I will have taken care of my conscious on this subject.

With California leading the United States with a total of 163,480 new cancer cases in 2011 according to the American Cancer Society, we must all do what we can to prevent it.

The more the cancer has set in, the less likely the survival is.   Some tips I read about that helps in prevention comes from the Cancer Prevention Daily Web site:

Top 10 Warning Signs of Cancer You Should Never Ignore:

To get early diagnosis and treatment to effectively fight cancer, see your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms.

1.   A lump in the breast or any part of the body

2 A sore or pain that doesn’t heal

3. A cough that doesn’t go away

4.  A new mole or change(s) in a mole

5. Changes in your bowel or bladder habits

6. Unusual discharge or bleeding

7. Unexplained weight loss or gain

8. Difficulty in swallowing

9. Discomfort after eating

10. Frequently tired or weak

Enea Ostrich is a longtime resident of College Park East in Seal Beach.

College Park Views: More cancer screening awareness, please