Do Not Try This At Home
- Actor and comedian Tom Arnold, 62, recently revealed that he just had skin cancer surgery last week, but wants everyone to know that he’s doing okay.
- The Iowa native gave some questionable tactics for post-surgical care on his Off Topic podcast, describing how he likes to pop and drain his own wounds.
- A leading expert from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center advises against this and gives SurvivorNet some guidance on general wound care and what to look out for if the area is not healing properly.
“I’m fine,” he said on his latest Off Topic podcast. “I’m on top of it.”Read More
“Last time it was on the side, and it was awesome, because it got infected,” he said, with a mix of excitement and sarcasm, perhaps more excitement. “And one night sitting in my office, I felt my shirt wet, and it had popped. Which I was glad, because I was able to sleep.”
Co-host and assistant Sasha Boggs chimed in and said it’s not supposed to pop. “It popped naturally,” Arnold reiterated, “but then I really popped it. You’ve gotta get the infection out. Sometimes you’ve gotta do it yourself,” he insisted.
This is a case of kids, do not try this at home.
A Leading Expert Weighs In
We spoke with Dr. Nima Gharavi, director of dermatologic surgery and Mohs micrographic surgery at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, who gave us the lowdown on wound care after a skin surgery, and it does not involve popping it yourself.
“I do not recommend ‘popping’ or squeezing a wound that is healing as this may cause injury and inflammation, and in some cases, even lead to infection, requiring antibiotics,” he explains to SurvivorNet. “If concerned about a wound, the best option is to see your physician.”
Dr. Gharavi also notes that it may not be actual pus coming from the wound.
“Infection is rare in skin surgery. Oftentimes, what looks like pus may in fact be healthy granulation tissue (primitive skin), which is healthy and normal,” he says. “If it’s frank pus, where it drains, has odor, and the area surrounding the wound is hot, red and tender, the most important thing is to seek medical attention. This way, your physician can assess the wound, obtain a wound culture (to see what bacteria is growing) and start appropriate antibiotics.”
Dr. Gharavi says the wound should heal on its own, but sometimes it can take a little longer to heal on the lower extremities or if a patient has underlying health issues.
“For general wound care, as long as there is no infection and there is good blood supply, gentle care should do it,” he says. “Washing the area, patting it dry with a towel or paper towel, putting some ointment on it, a band-aid or bandage, and giving it time to heal.”
Growing Up Without SPF
Arnold, who got his first break on the Roseanne show, grew up in Iowa, and admitted that back then they were using baby oil out in the fields, which is the worst thing you can put on your skin as it has zero SPF and attracts the sun. Unfortunately, using baby oil is a common story for Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers. Sunscreens weren’t widely used until the ’90s into the 2000s.
In the 1960s, sunscreens started hitting the shelves in the U.S., but they didn’t offer much protection. In 1988, the FDA approved avobenzone in sunscreen, a UVA-only filter.
Thankfully, we are a more skin-conscious nation and more aware of the dangers of the sun, although we still have a long way to go. Many patients are paying the price due to harmful exposure in their early years.
Protecting Yourself from the Sun
Although Arnold did not specify his exact type of skin cancer, melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer, is caused by excessive ultraviolet radiation.
Dr. Anna Pavlick from the NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center tells SurvivorNet more about this skin cancer.
“It can develop from a pre-existing mole that patients have on their skin, or it can develop as a dark or pink growth that doesn’t come from a mole, but happens on the skin,” she says. “Melanomas are the deadliest type of skin cancer, because they have a tendency to spread to other parts of the body, either through the lymphatics or the bloodstream.”
Dr. Pavlick says that 90% of the time, melanomas are from exposure to ultraviolet rays.
“So patients who have had scalding sunburns as children, patients who have had excessive sun exposure, patients who go to tanning salons because they thought that having a tan was the healthy thing to do,” she explains.
Melanomas can also occur in areas that are not sun exposed, “such as the sinuses, the back of the eye, the anal/rectal area, and also in areas of your body that were just not exposed to sun.”
It is always a good idea to get regular checks at the dermatologist who can provide more personal guidance on the required frequency of screenings for your skin.
In between appointments, it’s important to do self-checks because moles can often change or grow quickly and seem to pop up out of nowhere.
Dr. Cecilia Larocca from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute gives SurvivorNet an overview on things to look out for with moles using the ABCDE self-screening method.
- Asymmetrical moles: “If you drew a line straight down the center of the mole, would the sides match?”
- Borders that are “irregular, jagged, not smooth.” It can also stand for bleeding.
- Colors: “Multiple distinct colors in the mole.”
- Diameter: “Larger than 6mm, about the size of a pencil head eraser.”
- Evolution: “This may be the most important,” she says. “Anything that is changing over time such as gaining color, losing color, painful, itching, hurting, changing shape, etc.”