MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has revealed she had to undergo surgery for skin cancer after her partner of 22 years spotted a suspicious mole on her neck that turned out to be cancerous.
The 48-year-old primetime TV host and liberal commentator spoke out about her health scare during her show on Wednesday night, while praising partner Susan Mikula for finding the mole ‘in enough time that it was totally treatable’.
According to Maddow – who took three days off from her weeknight show in the wake of the surgery on Friday – artist Susan, 63, made the discovery while the couple were attending a Minor League baseball game this summer, with the on-air host admitting that she initially tried to pass off the mark as a mosquito bite.
‘At this particular Minor League game that I went to with Susan where I am sitting on her right and she is sitting on my left, I caught her looking at me… just kind of giving me a squinty eye and I was like, “What? What’s wrong?” I’m thinking mustard from the hot dog or something,’ she recalled.
‘But she poked me in the neck, kind of hard, and she said, “That mole has changed.” It was like she was speaking Greek, I had no idea what she was talking about, we were at a baseball game – again this was like a hot dog moment for me.’
Speaking out: MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has revealed that she underwent surgery for skin cancer on Friday after her partner spotted a suspicious mole on her neck
Support: The 48-year-old paid tribute to her partner Susan Mikula, 63, admitting that it is ‘only by the grace of her that I found mine in enough time that it was totally treatable’
Noting that she couldn’t actually see the mole when she looked in the mirror, Maddow continued: ‘But [Susan] was quite determined about it. I just said, “You just never sit on my left because I’m the one who drives when it’s the two of us in the car. You’re used to sitting on my right. I’m sure it’s a mosquito bite or sunburn or something.”‘
The TV host addressed her partner’s concerns with her longtime hairdresser the following day – who agreed with Susan’s observation and urged Maddow to go and see a doctor.
‘Long story short… Susan was right,’ Maddow revealed. ‘I went to the dermatologist, she said, “Hey, you know what, that mole has changed.”
‘Did a biopsy, turns out it was skin cancer.’
Maddow underwent a procedure at NYU Langone on Friday to remove the cancerous cells, revealing to her viewers that the surgery was ‘fantastic’ and that her doctors are confident that they ‘got all of it’.
‘They’re fantastic. They got it, they got all of it. I’m good. I have clear margins, the whole thing,’ she said, joking that ‘Susan is always right’ and reassuring her viewers that she is ‘going to be absolutely fine’.
The MSNBC host paid tribute to her partner, who she has been dating since 1999, noting that her condition could have been much more serious had Susan not spotted the cancerous mole as early as she did.
She admitted that she has been ‘blowing off’ her appointments to have her moles checked – and urged her viewers not to make the same mistake, saying: ‘It’s only by the grace of Susan that I found mine in enough time that it was totally treatable because I have been blowing off my appointments forever to get stuff like that checked because I’ve assumed it will always be fine.
‘What’s wrong?’ Maddow recalled how Susan, 63, poked her in the neck during a baseball game and raised concerns about how a mole on her neck had ‘changed’
Don’t look! The TV host said her procedure went incredibly well and she was left with just a small band-aid on her neck to cover up the area from where her cancerous mole was removed
‘Well in this case, it was Susan who checked it for me and thank God. Not everybody has a Susan, I recognize.’
Maddow did not share any further details about the severity of her skin cancer, nor did she identify which form she was diagnosed with, although she confessed that she now plans to get ‘everything checked every five minutes’ out of fear that she will end up with another cancerous mole elsewhere on her body.
She also drew attention to the statistics around skin cancer cases, pointing out that it is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the US.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it is estimated that more than 9,500 people in the US are diagnosed with skin cancer every day – with more than two people passing away from the disease every hour.
There are several different forms of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of the disease diagnosed in the US, however with all forms of the illness, early detection is the key to ensuring effective treatment and survival.
Melanoma is commonly referred to as the most deadly form of skin cancer because it is the type that spreads the most easily to other areas of the body, meaning that an early diagnosis is essential to ensure the best odds of survival.
Maddow called for her viewers to schedule regular check-ups with their doctors and not avoid them out of fear – insisting that the treatment for all forms of skin cancer has come on ‘leaps and bounds’ over the past few years.
‘Even the deadliest kinds of skin cancer now – the ones that like to spread into other parts of your body, the ones that really like to try and kill you – even the skin cancers that are the deadliest skin cancers in this country, those too are way more treatable than they used to be. On one condition: that you get them early,’ she said.
‘Even the most worrying forms of skin cancer, if you identify it early enough, it is now quite treatable. Advances in the last few years have been leaps and bounds.
‘Like I said, there’s a lot of different kinds of skin cancer, even the worst once are eminently more treatable than they used to be. And if you get them early, they’re almost all completely treatable.’
America’s most common form of cancer: How to spot skin cancer – and how is it treated?
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease in the US and worldwide.
The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that more than 9,500 people in the US are diagnosed with the illness every day – and more than two people pass away from the disease every hour.
There are several different forms of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma is the most common type, while melanoma is considered the most deadly, because of its tendency to spread to other parts of the body.
With all forms of skin cancer, early detection is key to ensuring successful treatment and experts recommend that adults check their own skin once a month and get their skin checked by a medical professional regularly to ensure that any potentially-dangerous moles or lesions are found and tested as soon as possible.
There are several symptoms to suggest that a mole or mark on the skin might be a sign of melanoma; personal skin checks can be done using the ‘ABCDE rule’ which highlights key characteristics to look out for:
- Asymmetry: If one part of a mole or birthmark looks different to another area of the same mark
- Border: If the edges of a mole are irregular, notched, blurred, or ragged
- Color: If the color is not the same all over, or if it includes different shades of brown or black. In rare cases it may also appear pink, red, white, or blue
- Diameter: If the mole or mark is more than 1/4 inch across
- Evolving: If the mark is changing in size, shape, or color
For other more common forms of cancer, indicators include:
- Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
- Raised reddish patches that might be itchy
- Small translucent, shiny, pearly bumps that are pink or red and which might have blue, brown, or black areas
- Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center, which might have abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a wheel
- Open sores (that may have oozing or crusted areas) and which don’t heal, or heal and then come back
Skin cancer treatment is determined on a case by case basis, depending on the type of cancer diagnosed, and the severity of it.
Some of the most common forms of skin cancer include:
- Freezing: This method is used on very small, early skin cancers and involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze off the cancerous skin
- Excisional surgery: The most common form of treatment, this procedure sees the cancerous tissue being cut out by a doctor, along with a surrounding margin of excess skin to ensure that all of the cancerous cells are removed
- Mohs surgery: This treatment is used for more hard-to-treat skin cancers, including those found on areas of the body where it is not possible to remove large patches of skin. During the procedure, a doctor will remove the skin growth layer by layer, scraping off the cancerous cells under a microscope
In some cases, patients may be advised to undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation in order to prevent the cancer from spreading, or to kill any cancerous cells that have been found elsewhere in the body.
Sources: Cancer.org, The Skin Cancer Foundation