Fight skin cancer on ‘Melanoma Monday’Posted: Updated:
Valley dermatologists are hoping to raise awareness about the risks of skin cancer by offering free skin cancer screenings on “Melanoma Monday.”
3TV and Cancer Treatment Centers of America offered the free screenings Monday from 8 a.m. to noon at Desert Ridge Marketplace. Last year at this event, doctors were able to screen 250 people. This year they were hoping to accommodate as many as 300 people.
Of all the different types of skin cancer, melanoma is said to be the most deadly. This is a tricky cancer that can develop on the eye, underneath the fingernails, inside the nose and mouth, and in recent years, the incidence of melanoma seems to be on the rise.
Arizona has a higher skin cancer rate (melanoma and non-melanoma) than any other state in the U.S. Our state is second only to Australia. Given our ample supply of sunshine, early detection and prevention are critical.
On Monday's Good Morning Arizona, we met a patient who shared his firsthand experience with skin cancer. Shawn Patterson was first diagnosed with metastatic melanoma at the age of 16. He had a bruise on his thumb that "would not go away." He waited years before getting it checked.
By the time he was checked, it was melanoma, and had spread to his lymph nodes and armpits. He has been getting treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America since May 2014.
When he arrived, the melanoma had spread from his hand to his arm to his lungs and beyond.
After an innovative treatment of Interleukin-2 (Il-2), first scans have shown his lung tumors are now gone! Outpatient IL-2 treatment is unique to CTCA and just a handful of other hospitals (no others in Arizona).
"I think the big thing is early detection," he says.
Dr. James Pehoushek of Allergy & Dermatology Specialists gave us basic tips for prevention of skin cancer:
-Always use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher, and make sure to constantly reapply, especially if you are going to be swimming. Evidence of a tan indicates that the radiation received has overcome the protection afforded by the sunscreen.
-Try to stay inside between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
-Cover up as much as possible if you have to be outdoors during the high intensity hours.
- Watch for moles or marks that are changing in size, color or elevation and reach out to a doctor if you notice those changes.
-No tanning beds.
So, how do you know if a spot is a freckle or skin cancer and how do you know when to see a doctor? Knowing the "A, B, C, D and Es" of your body will lead to early detection:
Asymmetry of a mole
Borders that are irregular
Color change in a mole that you already have
Diameter greater than 6 mm (larger than the size of an eraser on a pencil)
Evolving. Have you noticed any other changes such as bleeding, itching or puss coming from the mole? These may be signs of a malignant mole so seek medical assistance.
Melanoma Risk Factors:
Melanoma is more common in people with white, fair skin and those who have experienced high levels of UV exposure. Sunburns, often experienced during childhood, and the use of sun beds, are two risk factors associated with melanoma.
Melanoma Monday aims to encourage people to examine their skin regularly and seek medical assistance if there are recognized signs of a malignant mole. Early detection and treatment is associated with a much higher survival rate.
Early detection is crucial for treatment success. As with many other types of cancer, treatments are more successful when there is early detection. However, unlike most cancers, melanoma does normally not respond well to chemotherapy, radiotherapy or medication.
When melanoma is at a later stage and has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body, treatment options are limited, and palliative care is the main course of action.
Drug treatments for melanoma, when successful, do not provide a cure. They may extend life for a time measured in months not years. There will always be exceptions and some people with metastatic (stage 4) melanoma will live for many years after diagnosis. However, the prognosis for advanced melanoma is normally not good hence early detection is critical for success.