Pregnancy can do some crazy things to your, well ... everything! In my case, with both my first and now second pregnancies, my skin has broken out like I'm a teenager! But as a melanoma survivor, I know I need to pay extra attention to my skin when I'm pregnant -- and not just to the breakouts.
Over the years, I've come to learn a thing or two about protecting yourself, and I think it is my duty as a survivor to spread a tiny bit of awareness. Here's what I've learned about caring for your skin when you're a pregnant cancer survivor.
Communicate with your oncologist
Prior to trying to conceive, my husband Kyle and I sat down with my oncologist and did a little family planning. (Romantic, right?) I completed melanoma treatment five years ago, but still attend follow-up appointments, and, of course, skin checks. We told my oncologist that we were thinking of starting a family and wanted to know what that would mean for my cancer care. He told us that as far as my cancer was concerned, there was no reason I couldn't or shouldn't become pregnant.
Our next question was how we could continue my follow-up care throughout pregnancy. A bunch of medical mumbo jumbo later, he sent us to have a baseline ultrasound of my neck. This meant that in the event of me being pregnant when a scheduled scan rolled around, I still had a way to get images without posing any threat to the baby. So, talk to your oncologist. You don't necessarily have to press pause on your cancer care just because you are pregnant.
I personally don't do pregnancy small. I tend to expand. A lot. Like 50 pounds! During my first pregnancy, I noticed a mole on my hip start growing larger and even a bit red. Off to the dermatologist I went! Turns out the mole was OK. It just had a big ol' stretch mark running right through it.
Things change a lot during pregnancy. Things that normally would look potentially cancerous may not be. But keeping an open dialogue with your doctors will help with any of those freak-out moments.
Schedule at least one dermatologist appointment
It is important not only to let your dermatologist know you are pregnant, but also to see him or her at least once during your pregnancy. While most changes that pregnancy brings (acne, hyper pigmentation, skin tags, etc.) are harmless, a large number of women diagnosed with melanoma are of childbearing age. So, if you don't already have a good dermatologist, find one and schedule an appointment. Have a professional take a peak and make sure all of your skin changes are normal and healthy.
Protect your skin
Because your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, it's especially important to protect it. Don't forget to wear protective clothing and sunscreen. Your beautiful skin will thank you for it.
Melanoma is one of the cancers MD Anderson is focusing on as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically reduce cancer deaths. Learn more about our Melanoma Moon Shot.