By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One out of every three new cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer. Melanoma is the most often talked about type of skin cancer, and it can be fatal. But basal cell carcinoma is the most common kind.

One mother wanted to share her story about what to watch for, and how waiting for treatment can lead to life-changing reconstruction.

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Before life became busy with two boys Kristin Keeney noticed a spot on her cheek.

“Was kind of red, didn’t really go away, was really small, maybe the size of a pencil eraser and would flake sometimes, would itch but then it would go away,” Keeney said.

Doctors determined it was precancerous. She kept an eye on it. A few years later she noticed more.

“I had three biopsies done after the birth of my first son and they came back positive. I didn’t deal with them right away and then I got some more spots,” Keeney said.

In five years, the oncology nurse went from having one to six spots, all positive for basal cell carcinoma. Even with working closely with cancer patients, she waited to get treatment.

“I was really scared of what the process was actually going to be, and that’s part of why I was delaying things and — not a good idea,” Keeney said.

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Keeney needed reconstructive surgery on the three biggest spots.

“We went tumor by tumor, removed them and reconstructed them. Each area required a different reconstruction. One was this portion of her cheek here and then the other one was a good portion of her temple there and that’s the most recent one,” facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Jess Prischmann said.

According to experts, basal cell carcinoma is generally diagnosed on places most often exposed to the sun: face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back. People with fair skin are at most risk, and although Kristin is in her 30s, older people are most often affected.

“In the case of basal cell carcinoma, it’s a very slow-growing tumor so if you waited weeks to months, it’s not going to make that much of a difference. But the larger it gets, the more complicated the reconstruction gets and so it’s best to just go have it checked out and taken care of,” Prischmann said.

Keeney said her family, and her faith, led her through the tough transition, and ultimately feeling good again about her appearance.

“I think that a positive attitude plays a big role in a healthy healing process. I make a choice every day that when I’m putting my make-up on or getting ready that I see these scars as my road map,” Keeney said.

Keeney has three newer, smaller spots that each should be able to be removed and stitched up, not requiring reconstruction. Her advice: don’t delay. If you have a spot that’s suspicious, get it checked and get it removed.

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Click here to learn more about skin cancer. Here’s more information about Dr. Prischmann.

Jennifer Mayerle