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Every week on Dr. Pimple Popper , dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD, meets with men and women suffering from rare, often confidence-crushing skin conditions. The boils they carry are massive. The cysts are bubbling up to balloon-sized. But it’s the people underneath the incredible lumps and growths that make the show worth watching. Just cover your eyes through the pus-filled eruptions, if you must.
This week on Dr. Pimple Popper, the cosmetic dermatologist extraordinaire deals with some of the most unusual growths we’ve ever seen on the show — and loyal fans know that’s saying a lot. From a woman with a long, curved horn growing out of the back of her head to teenage brothers with matching mystery body lumps, it’s a full hour of drama and medical marvels. Read on for the details on everything that went down…
Case #1: Lisa
On a tree-lined path in Litchfield, New Hampshire, we meet 34-year-old Lisa, who has a quite peculiar horn-like mass growing on the back of her head. “It started growing about a year ago, and it gets a little longer every day,” Lisa says. “I don’t want anyone to see it, so I wear my hair up. It hurts, especially if I bump it against anything, but more than anything, it makes me feel gross. Like, who has a horn growing out of their head?”
Lisa has been engaged to her fiancé for over a year now, but she has been putting off the wedding because of her lump. “I want to feel my best on my wedding day,” she says. “But when I’m standing with my back to my friends and family, I feel like the first thing they’ll see is this big horn.” Plus, with a family history of cancer, she’s concerned about what the doctor might find. So, a very emotional Lisa heads to California to see Dr. Lee, in hopes of figuring out what’s really causing her horn and to hopefully get it removed.
After listening to Lisa’s story and feeling around her fingernail-like growth, Dr. Lee is fairly confident that it’s a rare form of pilar cyst, called a cutaneous horn. “I’ve seen a few cutaneous horns before, but nothing this big,” Dr. Lee says. “I can’t be exactly sure that’s what it is. It could be the angriest form of a cutaneous horn I’ve ever seen, or it could be a form of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, which presents similarly.”
Lisa’s surgery is surprisingly quick, because Dr. Lee is able to jiggle and yank the crusty horn right off Lisa’s head — it’s hard and dry, almost like a knobby, dilated pore of Winer (remember that ancient ear blackhead?). After the extraction, Dr. Lee digs underneath the exposed hole in Lisa’s head, just to make sure nothing suspicious is hiding under the skin, before she sews Lisa up. After the surgery, all signs of Lisa’s horn are gone, and all that’s left to do is wait for the definitive pathology results to come back.
A Curious Growth
Case #2: Victor
Next up, we have 37-year-old Victor, who has a hard bump popping out of the center of his chest. “I thought it was a pimple when I first noticed it a few years ago,” Victor says. “So I popped it and I remember a ton of stuff came out, and it just sort of scabbed over — I thought I was good. But over the years that scab got bigger, into this big hard growth it is today. I’ve actually named him Larry the Lump — and he needs to get out the way.”
At Victor’s consultation, Dr. Lee is fairly confident that Larry the Lump is some sort of benign tumor, which isn’t a major concern. The issue is that Larry is sitting right on top of Victor’s chest, above important organs — like the heart and lungs. “When I’m removing a growth in this spot, I have to use a gentle surgical technique,” Dr. Lee says. “I only want to go just as deep as I need to — not any further.”
When she takes Victor and Larry into surgery, Dr. Lee slices into the lump and learns right away that Larry is actually not a tumor, but a cyst, which is immediately apparent by the grayish-white sludge that comes spewing out of Victor’s chest (cyst contents are basically old, wet skin cells). Victor’s pretty easy-going and doesn’t seem all that fazed by the surprise in surgery, but in the end, he’s very thankful that his old friend Larry is no more.
A post shared by Sandra Lee, MD, FAAD, FAACS (@drpimplepopper) on Jan 10, 2019 at 1:58pm PST
Case #3: Chuck
At a metal-manufacturing plant in California, we’re introduced to Chuck, and the small pumpkin-sized balloon growing on his bicep. “When I was 18, I noticed a little bump in my arm, maybe the size of a marble,” says Chuck. “But over the last twenty years, it’s been growing out of control.” Chuck’s growth has also become a problem at work, where he’s constantly slicing and carrying panes of metal. “Sheet metal is extremely sharp,” he says. “A shard the wrong way could kill you, and this big old lump has become a real safety issue.”
Jiggling Chuck’s lump at his consultation, Dr. Lee is pretty positive that it’s a lipoma of the arm variety, because it seems to be growing on top of his bicep muscle as opposed to something lodged deeper under the skin. She only hopes that if it is, in fact, a lipoma, it’ll pop out cleanly without giving her a fight, which these types of squishy masses sometimes do.
After slicing into Chuck’s arm in surgery, Dr. Lee finds out that the lump is actually a multilobulated lipoma, meaning it has multiple fingers that get burrowed and lodged in the skin — not what Dr. Lee was hoping for. “This is going to be a terror to remove,” Dr. Lee says. “Removing this type of lipoma is like arm wrestling, because I have to pull it out piece by piece.” It’s frustrating just watching Dr. Lee yank and snip away tiny fatty fragments of this giant lump — she’s understandably a little frazzled. But after removing many sticky globs of lipoma, Dr. Lee finally excises the whole thing, and Chuck’s arm is back to normal after a successful surgery.
A post shared by Sandra Lee, MD, FAAD, FAACS (@drpimplepopper) on Jan 3, 2019 at 11:27am PST
Case #4: Jonathan & Christian
Last up are brothers Jonathan and Christian, who are 16 and 15, respectively. A few years ago, Jonathan noticed a small squishy lump on his side. It’s pretty small and doesn’t bother Jonathan at all, and the doctors have told him it’s likely just fatty tissue buildup. Coincidentally, shortly after Jonathan discovered his growth, younger brother Christian developed something similar. Christian’s lump is on his back and has a similar fatty consistency, but is bigger and growing much faster than Jonathan’s. Their mom wants both boys to have their mystery lumps removed, but while Christian is very much on board, Jonathan is refusing surgery.
Despite Jonathan’s hesitation, the brothers head into a consult with Dr. Lee. She starts with the more enthusiastic Christian, squeezing the soft balloon on his back and predicting it’s probably a benign lipoma. Begrudgingly, Jonathan gets his bump examined as well, and Dr. Lee suspects the same. Being that both boys are under 18, Dr. Lee wants to make sure that they understand that their procedures are cosmetic and elective, as these lumps don’t seem to be life-threatening — it’s a want-to, not a have-to surgery.
Christian is excited by the prospect of having his back bump flattened so he no longer has to wear sweatshirts to the beach, and Dr. Lee takes him into surgery. Cutting into the skin, Dr. Lee squeezes both sides of the lump, and a fatty lipoma pops out from Christian’s back, nice and clean. Now, it’s Jonathan’s turn to choose whether or not he wants the lipoma on his side handled by a pro — but he exercises his right to take a pass on surgery. Ultimately, the brothers walk out, one less bump between the two of them, with their halfway happy mother.
Before the episode ends, Dr. Lee circles back to first patient Lisa, and the pathology from her horn. Bringing out the microscopic pathology images, Dr. Lee explains that Lisa had what’s called an inflamed follicular cyst — and there’s no risk of cancer, or the lump returning. With an emotional Lisa crying happy tears, we end season two, episode six. Tune in next week for another round of lumps, bumps, and the occasional family drama.
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