Woman’s selfie goes viral for showing skin cancer treatment

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(WTNH)– One woman is receiving a lot of praise for her “selfie” after she took to social media to show the world the dangers of tanning.

27-year-old Tawny Willoughby is gaining national attention after she posted a photo of her face while she was under treatment for skin cancer.

Willoughby wrote “If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like.”

In the photo, the mother to a toddler, has painful-looking red scabs all over her face from treatment called Aldara, the generic name is imiquimod.

Willoughby wrote on her Facebook that she used to tan an average of 4-5 times a week (because she said her tan faded very fast) and had her first skin cancer diagnosis at age 21. Now six years later, she wrote she has had basal cell carcinoma five times and squamous cell carcinoma once. She now goes to the dermatologist every 6-12 months and usually has a skin cancer removed at each checkup.

A dermatologist told ABC News that the treatment in her photo is “used to trigger an immune system response to kill abnormal cells for patients with non-melanoma skin cancers.” It looks so horrific because the abnormal cells are destroyed with a lot of inflammation.

Another dermatologist suggests that Willoughby took this photo on the worst day of treatment and is now worried that patients will shy away from it because Willoughby didn’t mention that the treatment was not painful.

“It’s a standard therapy we use relatively routinely. Often, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as bad as it looks,” Dr. Neil Korman, a professor of dermatology at U.H. Case Medical Cener told ABC News.

Willoughby has had several other skin cancer treatments over the years. She says she’s lucky she’s never had melanoma. She adds that skin cancer is not always moles and that only one of hers was a mole.

Willoughby wrote on her Facebook, “Get any suspicious, new and growing spot checked out. Anything that doesn’t heal, possibly bleeds on and off and crusts. The sooner you find it the less likely it will leave a disfiguring scar or grow deep enough to metastasize. Melanoma kills, non melanoma disfigures (and can also kill). Don’t be a statistic!”

She hopes her photo will encourage people to change their bad tanning habits before it’s too late.

If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment…Posted by Tawny Willoughby on Saturday, April 25, 2015

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