What She Thought Was a Pimple Turned Out To Be Skin Cancer and Require Mohs Surgery

Sometimes, the symptoms of skin cancer can be very subtle. They can even appear in areas you can't see like the back of your neck or in your hair. That's what happened in the case of Gibson Miller when a small, pimple-like bump turned out to be skin cancer.

Miller's Story

Gibson Miller didn't think anything of the pimple-like bump under her left eye when she first saw it. "I noticed a little raised, pearlized bump on my cheek, but I wasn't really worried about it at first," Gibson, a 24-year-old middle school teacher from New York City, told Health. "I let a year go by, and when I realized it was still there, I figured I should probably get it checked out, considering I spent so many years playing tennis in the sun."

Most cases of skin cancer are caused by too much exposure to the sun or other sources of UV light.

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Gibson Miller

Miller, who first told her story on Today.com, explained that a fellow tennis player convinced her to take action and see her dermatologist.

"One of my tennis teammates in college was from Arizona—she was much more aware of sun damage because of where she grew up—and had a similar situation," Miller recalled. "She had a spot on her face, too, and she got a biopsy and it ended up being fine."

Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Miller called her dermatologist and asked to have the spot biopsied. Her dermatologist informed her she had to get a full-body skin cancer screening before she could get a biopsy.

"I didn't even know that was the typical protocol," Miller said. "I had just called and said I wanted a biopsy because I didn't even know full-body skin cancer screenings were a thing. No one really talks about them."

Miller made an appointment in mid-April 2019 for the screening, and her dermatologist agreed after seeing it that the spot on her face needed to be biopsied, which happened that day. A few days later, she learned that she had stage one basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, with approximately 3.6 million new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. It starts in the basal cells, which are found in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). A history of excessive sun or UV exposure is the main risk factor, along with having fair skin, although the condition can affect people with any skin tone.

"I was in the middle of grading finals when I got the call from my dermatologist telling me that it was cancerous," Miller said. "I didn't even really process it emotionally at the time, all I was thinking was, So what's the next step?"

After a few months of searching for a surgeon, Miller had the cancer removed on July 20. A day later, she had reconstructive surgery to close up the hole where the malignant spot had been.

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Gibson Miller

Mohs Surgery

"They went layer by layer, testing to see how deep the tumor went," Miller said of the surgical team. "Mine had what they called 'fibrous materials' on the ends of it, so they were careful to make sure the whole mole was removed and that cancer hasn't spread any further."

Miller's surgeon successfully removed all the cancerous tissue via Mohs surgery, a form of treatment for basal cell carcinoma that involves removing the cancerous tissue layer by layer so nothing malignant remains. It is performed in stages, with each layer of skin going to a lab to be immediately tested by pathologists.

Within two weeks of the surgery, her stitches were gone and the skin that once surrounded the cancerous spot began to heal.

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Gibson Miller

Miller went public with her story and photos to let others know how prevalent skin cancer is and that it can strike almost anyone. In fact, roughly one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point. It is the most common type of cancer in the United States.

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Gibson Miller

"I want people to know how important it is to get screened for skin cancer," Miller said. "If we don't talk about how real this is, no one's ever going to know about it."

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4 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sun Safety.

  2. Skin Cancer Foundation. Basal Cell Carcinoma.

  3. Skin Cancer Foundation. Mohs Surgery.

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Skin Cancer.

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