NEW YORK (PIX11) — As the weather warms up and we start spending more time in the sun, it’s important to remember to protect your skin. It’s something Sophia Zukoski now takes seriously more than ever.

In the past, Zukoski didn’t think much about what she did before heading outdoors. “I would sometimes wear a tinted moisturizer with SPF. I wore a hat and sunscreen to the beach but that was it,” said Zukoski.

Her routine before going outdoors changed after the age of 28 when she began noticing something different on her scalp.

“It started flaking and cracking and really itching. It was like I could feel a different blood flow headed to that area. I met with my older dear friend who is 99 and he was showing me an area on his scalp and he said this is where I have skin cancer. And I thought oh, that really looks like what I have,” said Zukoski.

After going to a dermatologist, she was told she had eczema. Even though she knew that wasn’t right, she continued with the prescribed cream for a few months until she headed back to that dermatologist.

The spot on Sophia Zukoski’s scalp was basal cell carcinoma. (Courtesy: Sophia Zukoski)

“When I came back in, nothing had really changed. In fact, it had gotten worst. It had gotten bigger, it was now bleeding and I said, ‘you know, I really think this is basal cell. I really think this is skin cancer,’ and she said, ‘I think it’s a fungal infection,’” said Zukoski.

After several misdiagnoses, Zukoski pushed her dermatologist to do a biopsy. That’s when it was determined that the spot on her scalp was basal cell carcinoma.

Zukoski then sought out the help of another doctor, Dr. Richard Torbeck. Two years later, Torbeck performed Zukoski’s surgery to remove the cancer.

“It’s what’s called Mohs micrographic surgery. It’s a technique that has been around for many decades. It’s a technique where we are able to watch something be removed in real time and where you take the skin as a small disk that is marked in a certain way. Then you create micro slides from that disk we are able to see where the tumor is and where the tumor isn’t. That allows us to do two things, to be tissue conservative so we don’t take more tissue than is needed,” said Torbeck.

Torbeck is a Mohs surgeon and the Director of Cancer Surgery at the Chelsea Center at Mount Sinai. He said basal cell usually appears on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, such as your head and neck, but it can also appear in other places.

“Usually what I say is if you have a spot that’s not healing, a pimple bump that’s not going away, a spot that looks like a little oily spot, a little flat area that can have a little bleeding just minor injuries or a crusty area, that can be a sign of basal cell,” said Torbeck.

Torbeck said most basal cells are caused by long-term UV exposure from the sun but can also be caused by environmental factors and genetics. He suggested avoiding the sun, using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing to prevent skin cancer.

Torbeck said if you notice something different on your skin that doesn’t seem right, get it checked out. Most importantly, do your part to stay safe in the sun.