Skip to content
Spot on face was basal cell carcinoma

Last spring, Jeff Karp had just had his first routine examination for skin cancer all over his body and was about to walk out of the examination room when, on a whim, the 46-year-old decided to ask her dermatologist for a location. on his cheek.

It was small – less than half an inch in diameter – and slightly red. Karp first noticed it a year or two ago, but thought it was part of the aging process. Everything during his body scan was normal, the visit was over and he had already put his mask back on, so the question came up out of the blue.

“I kind of debated whether or not I should ask about it or not,” Karp, Ph.D, a biomedical engineer and professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said today. “The thought didn’t even cross my mind that it might be skin cancer.”

But that’s exactly what it was. Karp’s dermatologist took a closer look and recommended a biopsy.

The results: basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of cancer in the world, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

This photo shows Karp before his biopsy and treatment. The spot he asked his dermatologist about is on his cheek, just to the left of his nose. (Courtesy of Jeff Karp)

This skin cancer tends to grow slowly and is not life-threatening for most people, but it needs to be treated before it can grow deep and injure nerves and blood vessels, noted the AAD. It is more common in fair-skinned people who rarely use sunscreen.

The cancer may look like a pink or reddish growth that dips down the center, a sore that won’t heal, or a spot that looks scaly.

Karp recalled having “pretty bad burns (from the sun)” when he was younger. He used to play two rounds of golf a day, staying in the sun for eight to ten hours. The scientist said he used sunscreen “here and there” but wouldn’t necessarily reapply it.

Karp’s wife had encouraged him to get his skin checked, but it wasn’t until March that he finally went.

The question he asked at the very end of his visit is known as the “doorknob phenomenon”, when a patient waits for the doctor to get his hand on the doorknob to leave the room. review and reveal something that often provides crucial information.

After his diagnosis, Karp was about to have surgery to remove the skin cancer when the surgeon noticed it wasn’t too deep and recommended using Aldara instead, a cream to treat the skin cancer. superficial basal cell carcinoma.

Karp was prescribed a six-week treatment, applying the cream five days a week, with weekends off. He chronicled the startling skin changes during this time by taking a photo almost every day.

Spot on face was basal cell carcinoma
Spot on face was basal cell carcinoma

As a scientist who invents medical technology and is fascinated by how things work, Karp explained treatment this way:

“This cream is actually a topical immunotherapy. It activates the local immune system in a very important way so that your immune system can then recognize cancer cells and kill them,” he said.

“But in the process of activating the immune system, there’s a lot of inflammation that’s caused, and what’s interesting is that the inflammation also allows the cream, the therapeutic agent, to still penetrate. deeper because your skin is more permeable because now it’s inflamed.”

Karp, who recently completed treatment, said her skin should fully regenerate and return to normal or even better than before. But navigating the world during treatment was difficult, he recalls.

This area of ​​his face was uncomfortable and sometimes oozed blood, so he had to sleep with a towel on his pillow. Children would stare at Karp when he was out in public, and he avoided making eye contact or walking near them because he didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. It took a toll on his mental health.

“When it got to the last two weeks of treatment, I debated whether to stop it because I was getting really fed up,” he said. “Now I’m in this very positive space because the treatment is over. I’m clearly on the road to recovery and I’m not as embarrassed about it.

Karp now wears a wide-brimmed hat outside and takes an umbrella with him for extra sun protection at outdoor events, like watching his son play football. He keeps sunscreen in his car and bag so it’s always on hand. He hopes others can learn from his ordeal and be more motivated to protect their skin, he recently wrote online.

When it comes to skin checks, dermatologists emphasize that patients should be a partner in the process. Think of yourself and your dermatologist as a team. Between appointments, scan your body and take photos of your moles to track any changes and show them to your doctor.

“Everyone should be familiar with their own moles, because that’s what’s going to save your life,” Dr. Julie Karen, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, told TODAY.

As for the “doorknob” issue, Karp wasn’t surprised that’s what it takes to receive a diagnosis and stressed the importance of “collaborating with the dermatologist.”

“(It’s not just about doing a routine check-up, but also bringing to the dermatologist’s attention any changes you’ve observed over time that may need further investigation,” he said. -he declares.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.