Get Naked - Melanoma
Melanoma does not play favorites. Anyone can get melanoma (even those with darker skin) and you can get it anywhere on the skin and even some non-skin areas such as inside the eye. It is important to know this because every year 10,000 people die in the United States from melanoma with the incidence of this deadly cancer rising at a steady rate. Good news is that with early detection and treatment survival rates for melanoma can be more than 90%. This is why it is important to get checked at least annually and to have your whole body checked, including those areas that are unexposed to the sun.
There are several key factors in early detection. First it is important to do monthly self examinations of your skin and to know what to look for. The signs of melanoma are often broken down into what’s called the ABCDE’s of melanoma. These signs include: Asymmetry, irregular Borders, multiple or uneven distribution of Color, Diameter greater than 6mm, and Evolution of your moles - know what's normal for your skin and check it regularly for changes.
Second, it is important to get regular full skin checks on an annual basis. In fact, most melanomas that have been diagnosed in our office were found on those either unaware of the mole or unaware that the mole had changed. At Dr. Monica Scheel Dermatology we have diagnosed over 50 melanomas in the last 2 years and those numbers continue to rise daily. We utilize state of the art devices in order to be a front leader in early melanoma diagnosis. By utilizing Dermoscopy (skin surface microscopy) we are able to do precise mole mapping that allows us to detect subtle changes in a moles color or size which is key to early detection. In addition, each and every spot of concern on our patients bodies are mapped ensuring we have the best records to keep up with changes to new or existing moles.
Another advanced and innovative technology that we utilize at Dr. Monica Scheel Dermatology is our Melafind device. This device allows us to analyze a suspicious mole up to 2.5mm below the skin surface without having to make a cut. By obtaining additional information on a suspicious mole we are better equipped to make the best clinical decision whether to remove a suspicious mole or to closely monitor.
There are many faces of melanoma, and this potential life-threatening cancer can sometimes be lurking in plain sight. Get naked, check your skin monthly and make sure to stay regular with your full skin checks, having a melanoma detected early enough can mean the difference between life and a life-threatening illness.
By Patricia Gannon Achay, M.S., PA-C