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Toni Applegate, of Yardville, New Jersey, understands the importance of a correct diagnosis and treatment plan. When a skin tag (normally a harmless growth of extra skin) — which was initially thought to be a simple "fatty tumor," and then a form of skin cancer that her dermatologist felt could be taken care of in her office — turned out to be a rare form of cancer known as leiomyosarcoma, it was clear that her case required the attention of a cancer specialist. She found that specialist, and the appropriate treatment plan, at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
"If it wasn't for my husband hounding me about the skin tag on my left hip, I'd probably still have a tumor growing inside my leg, and wouldn't even know it," recalled Toni.
After numerous reminders, Toni took her husband's advice to see her local dermatologist. During her office visit, Toni's dermatologist clipped off the skin tag, and told her that 99.99 percent of skin tags are normal. She didn't see anything to suggest that this one would be any different. Initially relieved, Toni remembers feeling a tinge of concern when she overheard a nurse say to the doctor, "Do you see that?" and the doctor said "It's just a fatty tumor, it's no big deal."
A week later, Toni received a call from the dermatologist's office explaining that there were some irregular cells. They asked her to return so they could remove the rest of the "fatty tumor." Toni agreed, and had no reason to think that there was any cause for concern.
Toni's skin tag turned out to be leiomyosarcoma.
Shortly after removing the tumor, the head of the dermatology practice called Toni to let her know she had a form of skin cancer, known as leiomyosarcoma. He offered to remove the affected area right in his office.
"I began wondering how many more times am I going to be cut, without even so much as a test, scan or x-ray, to see how big that tumor is?," shared Toni, who began to realize she needed to find a cancer specialist. "That's what led me to Fox Chase Cancer Center."
Toni initially met with a doctor in New Jersey who was affiliated with Fox Chase. That physician immediately referred her to Dr. James Watson, a specialist in the treatment of leiomyosarcoma, who was located on the main campus of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
"From the moment I met Dr. Watson, I felt like I was FINALLY in the right hands."
"Dr. Watson is so warm and personable, but also extremely knowledgeable," Toni recalled. "He is the only doctor in this area who specializes in these types of tumors, and so he knew exactly what he was dealing with. That was extremely comforting."
"In fact," added Toni, "everyone was very warm and personable, the nurses, staff, schedulers, everyone. I was kind of prepared for a cancer center to be scary, but surprisingly when I arrived at Fox Chase, the last thing I thought of was a cancer hospital. It seemed more like a hotel! It wasn't scary at all and didn't have that "hospital" feel to it."
Dr. Watson performed the delicate procedure to resect the tumor from her hip and thigh as an outpatient procedure, but one that required a more radical resection to obtain adequate margins to minimize the chance of it recurring. "When I removed the bandage and saw the size of the incision and number of stitches I was shocked," said Toni. "Considering this began as a skin tag, and then a two inch incision in the dermatologist's office, I never expected the affected area to be as large as it was. I remember thinking I can't believe some other doctor thought he could take care of this in his office!"
The Fox Chase teams leaves Toni with peace of mind.
Toni will have to be scanned and checked periodically throughout her life, but she reports that "knowing Dr. Watson and his wonderful staff at Fox Chase are going to be the ones taking care of me allows me not to worry about the cancer anymore."
"Whether it is for the type of cancer I had, or any other type of cancer, I would tell anybody who is facing a similar prognosis that the ONLY place to go for CORRECT diagnosis and treatment is Fox Chase Center," concluded Toni.