Sunday 28 September 2014


There's a very tiny patch of skin on my left leg (about 2mm diameter); it started bleeding several months ago for no apparent reason. I put a bit of gauze on it, then a plaster, and it mostly healed up. I say "mostly" because usually when I get a scratch or graze, when it's healed the skin is indistinguisable from the skin around it. But in this case, there was a noticable difference.

And then it happened again, same place.

When it happened a third time, I decided to show it to my GP, who referred me to a dermatologist, who said that it looked OK, but wanted to test a sample.

So a few days ago, I went off Warfarin, and on Friday, I visited Dermatology at Amersham Hospital.

First I saw a research doctor. You might have heard the idea that dogs can smell cancer? She's testing this idea experimentally. She put a bit of gauze on the place on my leg and left it there for a few minutes. That's going to be shown to a dog, and it's also going to "sniffed" by a gas chromatograph.

This might sound like an unlikely idea, but it costs very little to test it out, and if it does work, then a fairly simple apparatus could be used to determine whether a lesion is likely to be cancerous or not; non-intrusively and non-painfully.

Then I went on to the real test. First, a shot of local anasthetic. Ow. Then, while the area was numb, the surgical nurse scraped the area. She told me that when it heals up, it should heal properly now. That didn't hurt, of course, the anasthetic did its job. She put on a dressing of gauze followed by sticky-stuff, and told me to change it after 48 hours.

That meant today. I wasn't looking forward to this. By now, the whole of the gauze covering was ominously red.

First, I carefully peeled back the sticky-stuff, which, of course, was stuck to my leg hairs, and that hurt a bit. Then I put the whole thing in the shower, and turned the shower head on it - the idea is to painlessly wash off the gauze dressing. Most of it came off easily. But about a square centimeter was stuck fast.

I gave it several more minutes of shower head, but it wasn't moving, so I got out of the shower, put my foot on a chair, gritted my teeth, gripped the gauze and pulled.

It came off. Followed, of course, by a fair amount of blood. I mopped at it with a couple of tissues until the flow abated, then covered the wound with vaseline (as per instructions) then a bit of gauze, then some surgical sticky tape to hold this in place.

It did sting a bit while I did it, but it's stopped stinging now, and it isn't bleeding.