Saturday, November 1, 2014

Melanoma—the deadliest skin cancer

Skin cancer is a real and lethal threat. Many people seem to have a lackadaisical approach to their skin and having moles checked. Even when it has been recommended to have a growth checked out, many times people don’t heed the call. The bottom line is, skin cancer—melanoma specifically—can kill you. And the good news is, if detected early, melanoma is usually totally curable. In fact, it is one of the only curable forms of cancer. It is also preventable to a large degree. Prevention involves being hyperaware of sun exposure and wearing hats, wearing protective clothing, and sunscreen whenever (and however long) you are in the sun. Don’t risk your life: go to your dermatologist. If you don’t have one, get one, and have a full-body check done on your moles. Why wait?

The following are some stories from clients and friends about their melanoma experiences. They are good examples of the importance of getting regular mole checkups. If you need to find a dermatologist in your area, CLICK HERE to be taken to the American Academy of Dermatology find a dermatologist page.

Roxanne’s story. I always recommend clients get a full body check when they go to their dermatologists, no matter what the reason is for the visit. During a normal office visit, the doctor might not check all of your moles, so be sure to ask for that service. Don’t pass up any opportunity to get your moles looked at. Luckily my client, Roxanne, followed this advice.

I sent her in for a funny-looking mole on her forehead. The good news is the mole wasn’t anything to worry about. The other news is rather shocking. As the doctor did a check of all of her moles, she noticed something on Roxanne’s left forearm, on the underside. After the biopsy, this small mole turned out to be malignant melanoma—the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Poor Roxanne. She had just given birth to her second child and the news of skin cancer was understandably quite upsetting. Melanoma can kill you if gone undetected. It enters the blood stream, and unlike the slow growing basal cell carcinoma, it spreads rapidly and eventually affects the entire body if given a chance.

Roxanne is now sporting a rather large (compared to the size of the mole) scar on her arm. It’s a small price for living a life fulfilled. Without the keen eye of a skin doctor, this mole might have gone unnoticed for years, eventually causing Roxanne more problems than just a long scar. Don’t delay, get your moles checked today!

Sally’s story. Sally went to her dermatologist for an annual mole check. During the examination, the doctor noted a small freckle on her back that she wasn’t even aware of and had it removed to biopsy. Sally wasn’t really worried about the removal of this spot—until the results from the tests came back: melanoma in situ, which is an early stage of skin cancer. She went in to get the area surrounding the original spot removed until no cancerous cells were found.

Sally is one of the lucky ones. Luck didn’t have anything to do with the fact that she schedules regular visits with her dermatologist. That is simply smart on her part. Her story goes to show you that these regular exams are crucial in keeping skin cancer from having too long to proliferate. Without this exam, Sally might not have ever noticed this spot on her back, and that could have been fatal in time.
If you are in the sun on a regular basis, you really should have a regular mole check at your dermatologist. If you are not in the sun a lot, but are over 35 or 40 years old, I recommend getting a baseline check (the initial data recorded about your moles and skin irregularities), and then going in annually to be sure nothing has changed with any spots or moles.

Sally will now be visiting her dermatologist more often than once a year to be sure there aren’t any more problem places and to keep an eye on the spot where the cancer was removed. This is a small inconvenience for keeping skin cancer away. Found early, skin cancer is treatable.

Ronald’s story. My friend Ronald was in town on business, and we met for dinner one night. He asked me about the book I was writing at the time, and I told him I was currently writing the section on melanoma. He proceeded to tell me his father’s skin cancer story.

His dad had a biopsy done on some unusual moles, and for whatever reason, never got the lab results back. The doctor never called him, and he just figured no news was good news. Unfortunately, he did have malignancies, and over time they took over his body, and he eventually died of malignant melanoma. This is one of those rare cases of an oversight, but it can and does happen.

I tell this story so you will be sure to get the lab analysis of any skin biopsies that are taken, even if the tests show the growths are benign (non-cancerous). This may seem obvious, but every once in a while a mistake takes place due to human error, as this story so tragically illustrates.

I keep reiterating to get your moles checked for a reason: This simple act can save your life—literally. Dont take seeing your dermatologist for granted. In this case it is better to be safe than be sorry.

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