After taking Peggy's medical history, Dr. Irwin begins a skin cancer
examination. In checking literally every centimeter of Peggy's skin from her
scalp to between her toes, Dr. Irwin found several irregular spots on Peggy's
arm and foot. After numbing those areas, Dr. Irwin removed the spots and sent
skin samples to a lab to test if they contained any cancerous cells.
Dr. Oz says if those spots are skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer, there are several types it could be.
Basal cell cancer, which starts at the base of the skin, is the most common form. Typically caused by sun damage, it starts with a scaly area that, if it advances, will eventually gain a pearly appearance.
Squamous cell tumors get a scaly appearance early. As they advance, the skin puckers in.
The third type of skin cancer is melanoma, which Dr. Oz calls "the big one." Melanoma comes from melanin, the cells that make pigment, so there are a few indicators. These can be explained as "A, B, C, D."
Asymmetry: "It's hard to draw a line down the middle," Dr. Oz says.
Border: "The border's irregular and it sort of melts into the skin around it. That's a classic sign of a melanoma."
Color: If a mole has a "rainbow coalition" of colors, that means it's probably melanoma, Dr. Oz says.
Diameter: Dr. Oz says mole size
does matter. "If you can cover over the mole with an eraser head you'll probably
be okay," he says. "But if you've got hundreds of moles or a family history or
you've had a melanoma in the past, you need to be screened pretty
Dr. Irwin is worried Peggy has basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer. "I think your skin is telling you that it's in distress," she tells her. "And you're starting to develop some early changes, possibly skin cancers, in your skin."
When the tests come back, they are negativeall of the tumors are benign. But with the way she has treated her skin for so many years, Dr. Oz says Peggy is very lucky. "It's not because you planned it to be that way," he says.
Dr. Oz says learning the proper way to screen for skin cancer can literally save a life. "And here's the fun part. You've got to get completely naked. It's fun to do it in pairs. Get a nice Chianti. And then you've got to get a camera out," he says. "And the reason to get the camera out is when you find things, skin things, to take pictures of, you've got to snap them. And put a dime next to them or some piece of coinage so you can see how big it wasthe key for [your dermatologist] to find out what they are."
Just like Peggy, 40-year-old Jennifer had a dangerous love affair with the sun. "I was a sun worshipper ever since I was a teen. I went to the beach every chance I got. I used baby oil instead of sunscreen. I loved when I got sunburned, because I knew I'd be tan in a few days. Being tan made me feel beautiful, confident and healthy."
All the fun in the sun caught up with Jennifer when melanoma was found on her cheek and had to be surgically removed. "You can see how disfiguring it can be, especially if it begins to invade through the skin," Dr. Oz says.
Jennifer has a few words of caution for Peggy. "I was just like you. I'm paying the price now. You have to respect yourself enough to stopand your family and your friends. I was really lucky, my melanoma didn't spread. It doesn't mean that in two years it won't be everywhere. I have to live with that every single dayjust because I wanted a tan. And it's just not worth it. You do not need to do this to yourself. You're beautiful. You do not need to be tan."
When Sandra was only 16-years-old, her mother died of breast cancer. "When she got sick, it just took the whole life out of the house. Nothing was the same, and none of us were the same," she says. Sandra is now 43 years oldthe same age she says her mother was when she had terminal breast cancerbut she has never had a mammogram. "What I'm doing is completely wrong, and I'm very ignorant. I'm very surprised at myself, but I just don't want to know. I've never been checked and there could be something. What happens if they do find something?"
Sandra's sister Josephine has been urging her to get a mammogram for years. "I send her e-mails. I send her cards. There was a special card they made one yearyou know, to remind someone you love to go and have an exam." But Sandra's fear kept her away from the doctor. "Every year I get that, 'Go get your mammies grammed' or whatever and I just laugh and I delete it. I mean, I don't even do a self-check."
Sandra is now facing her fears and going with Dr. Oz to have her first mammogram. "I'm going. I can't back out now. I'll just see what happens. I'm not going to like itbut I'll go."
Dr. Oz takes Sandra to meet his colleague, Dr. Kathie-Ann Joseph, a breast surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Columbia Hospital. "You should be congratulated for coming in today," Dr. Joseph says. "I see dozens of women come in every day into my office, and they're just like you, so you're not alone."
Dr. Joseph begins the breast exam by checking Sandra's breasts for irregularities. "I'm checking all parts of the breast," Dr. Joseph says. "We sort of divide the breast into what we call quadrants. Divide it like a clock into fourths."
The breast exam goes well and Dr. Joseph gives Sandra the good news. "Your exam was fine. I didn't feel anything abnormal. Your lymph nodes were clear. I didn't feel any lumps."
Next, Sandra is given her first mammogram while Dr. Joseph urges her to relax. "Even if you hit me over the head I wouldn't be able to relax," Sandra says. "I'll feel better when I know everything's okay."
Dr. Oz shows an animation to demonstrate how breast cancer forms and why mammograms and breast exams are so critical. "There are about 15 or 20 lobes in an average breast. And they have lobules in them. The lobules make the milk that feeds and nourishes the child. And the milk goes from the lobule to the nipple via these ducts. Those ducts become the roads that are so important in transferring the milk. But they also can be the source of cancer."
Dr. Oz says that 85 percent of all breast cancer happens in those ducts. "But if you look inside the duct when the cancer is first beginning to start, it stays there for a while. It doesn't break through these walls like that. It takes a while to do that. If you can find the cancer when it's early, you can take it out and it's done."
What you don't want, Dr. Oz says, is for cancer to spread to the lymph nodes and beyond. "The key is to get that cancer before it penetrates through the wall. If you find it then, it's a done deal," he says. "You have a baseline defense systeman immune system. You want to help it, but it can only defend you for so long."
Sandra's brave decision to finally get a baseline mammogram has a promising endinga healthy breast report! "The story is much bigger than the fact that it's normal," Dr. Oz says. "Especially in a mammogram, the most beautiful part of the whole story is you have a baseline. If we know what your unique look is in your breasts, then we actually know five years down the road that that new thing we're seeing is different from what it used to be."
"I should have went a long time ago instead of bringing 50 million people with me," Sandra says. But because Sandra saw breast cancer take her mother's life, she needed convincing to take the first step. "I watched a woman deteriorate in front of my eyes, and I just didn't want to do that to my children."
Dr. Oz says if we can overcome the intimidation or fear, the more we know about our bodies, the better our overall prognosis will be. "When you're on a plane and you're bouncing around a little bit, you don't want to go up to the cockpit and see what's going on, right? Because it's scary to you. You figure someone else will take care of it," he says. "You've got to be the driver of your ship. You've got to be the world expert on your body. Not knowing if you've got the problem is not going make it any better. It actually makes it more difficult for [doctors] to help."
Last year, Karen wrote to The Oprah Show
to stage an intervention
for her overweight husband, Jason.
"I eat a lot of candy at night trying to keep awake 14 hours at a time," Jason said. "I feel like a 45, 50-year-old man in a 30-year-old body."
Jason also had a snoring problem so severe that it worried Karen. "It sounds like he's gasping, that he's actually not breathing for a couple seconds at a time, and I can't imagine what that might be doing to his heart," Karen said.
Dr. Oz gave Jason a big wake-up callat just 35-years-old, Jason had diabetes and hypertension.
Eleven months have now passed since Jason's interventiondid he change his health habits?
Jason is backand 70 pounds lighter! Jason says he read Dr. Oz's book, You on a Diet, to help him develop a healthier lifestyle. "I wouldn't even call it a diet," Jason says. "I learned how to self-educate myself on how to eat properly. Everybody knows you shouldn't eat the fast food and the candy, but what I didn't know was white bread. I switched to whole wheat, and a lot of things like that just help your metabolism speed up. And instead of candy at night, I eat fruit. I have more energy."
Dr. Oz has great news for Jason. "You're not a diabetic anymore, and you're not hypertensive anymore," Dr. Oz says. "The big story is these are reversible diseases. I just want to shout out to Karen, because that's the woman who saved your life."
What about Jason's snoring problem? Jason had an operation performed on his septum to control his sleep apnea, but his doctor found something unexpected. "We thought it was really nothing, a cyst, and we took it out. It turned out to be cancer," Dr. Josephson says.
Fortunately for Jason, Dr. Josephson was able to catch the cancer before it grew. "This is the kind of stuff we're talking about," Dr. Oz says. "You can change your health destiny. Those are not pretty cancers when they grow."
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