What Don’t You See? A Hidden Benefit of Regular Massage

When is the last time you took a really good look at your back?  Your legs?  The bottom of your feet?  Most of us probably don’t spend much time inspecting our skin for oddities, unusual spots, moles that change, or lumps and bumps that weren’t there before and even if we did we might not think much about it.  As a massage therapist who teaches budding therapists about diseases I’m always on the lookout for things that don’t look or feel right.  If something seems wrong I’ll recommend my client get it checked by their doctor if they haven’t already.

I bring this up because I ran into a client who I’d seen regularly for a bit but hadn’t had an appointment for several months.  The last few times he was in I’d mentioned an irregularly shaped and multi-colored blotch on the back of one of his calves.  When I saw him in public several weeks ago he pulled up his pant leg to show where just that week he had a sizable chunk of skin and tissue removed from the area.  He showed his doctor the unusual spot and it was diagnosed as malignant melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer that if not caught early enough can metastasize and spread to other areas of the body.  I was stunned.  In all the times I’d pointed things out to clients they had either already had them checked and were fine or I never got any kind of follow up.  I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to help someone catch what could have been a potentially fatal disease.

When I teach my students about skin pathologies I make sure they can recognize potential cancerous lesions.   We don’t diagnose diseases but can notice when something looks suspicious and let you know that it’s worth having a physician take a look.  Give yourself a good inspection every now and again as well.  If you notice new discolored areas, changes to older moles or spots, bumps that scab over but never heal, or things that seem to be changing rapidly please see your doctor and get it looked at.

Your chances of getting skin cancer increase with age and exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds.  Make sure you protect yourself with sunblock, clothing that covers exposed areas, hats, and sunglasses.  Don’t forget to protect your head, face, ears, and hands as well as they’re often overlooked.  These precautions not only protect you from skin cancer but also from premature aging.  Go outside and enjoy the sun but protect yourself, your skin will thank you!