Dermatologists said they are torn about how the public may react to a young woman who posted a photo of herself undergoing treatment for skin cancer.
Tawny Willoughby, a 27-year-old mother of a toddler, took to Facebook to show the world the ugly side of tanning gone wrong.
“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go!” she wrote. “This is what skin cancer treatment can look like.
The skin on her face is covered with angry, painful-looking scabs because she has used a treatment called Aldara, which goes by the generic name imiquimod, she wrote in the post.
Dermatologist Dr. Barney Kenet, who has never met or treated Willoughby, said the cream is used to trigger an immune system response to kill abnormal cells for patients with non-melanoma skin cancers like Willoughby’s. It’s also used to treat genital warts, he said.
“The reason it’s so horrific is that the immune system is very powerful and what stimulates it to attack these abnormal cells really destroys them with a lot of inflammation,” he said. “This picture represents the extent of her damage.”
Not all the scabs are spots where Willoughby had cancer, Kenet said, but they’re abnormal pre-cancerous cells. If a person with perfectly healthy skin put the cream on, that person likely would not have a reaction to the cream at all.
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