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When a "cyst" is not just a cyst

A female in her 50s presented with this "cyst" on her head in October 2018. She was on my schedule for surgical removal of scalp cysts, known as pilar cysts. This growth was pink and solid, not flesh-colored or somewhat-mobile bump under the skin, that is typical of cysts. Dermatologists are trained to watch out for pink growths that show up on scalp as they can represent cancers of breast and kidneys that have spread (metastasized) to the scalp. So I did a punch biopsy and confirmed through additional testing and staining that the growth represented a primary skin cancer growth called squamous cell carcinoma, and not a cancer of distant site that had spread to the scalp. Without waiting for the results of scalp biopsy, I arranged for her to get age-appropriate cancer screenings. The "cyst" ended up saving her life because she was diagnosed with both breast cancer and endometrial cancer as a result of these screenings.


Not all growths of scalp are cysts. In her case, the cancerous growth on her scalp brought attention to the age-appropriate recommended cancer screening which led to the diagnoses of breast cancer and endometrial cancers, and subsequently to the life-saving treatments which she just finished a few months ago.


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