Sunday, October 21, 2012

Going To The Dermatologist And Melanoma



OK, let me spell some stuff out and do it like this so it's easily shareable. There are things about melanoma and dermatology appointments people need to know. (I will be frank and assume we all know our body parts. I have learned thru the years that some things need to be spelled out or some people will not get it). First and foremost, remember we don't call melanoma "the beast" for nothing. It has EARNED that name. This is for everybody, regardless of skin color, age, or gender. Melanoma is an equal opportunity cancer and, as you will see if you don't already know, it is NOT "just" skin cancer!

1. Melanoma does not have a "THIS IS IT" look. People tend to think in terms of "moles" or places on the surface of the skin and there are many preconceived ideas about what melanoma looks like. It can be a nodule under the skin. It can be a pink spot on the surface. It can be a very small black dot. While it does have a "common" look that dermatologists look for...we know the "ABCDE's"...that does not always hold. When in doubt, check it out.

2. Maybe cut it out. Do NOT let anybody tell you to "let's watch it and see what it does." While they are watching, if it's melanoma, it is growing and happily so. This is your body, your suspicion, and if it's melanoma it's your fight, your life, and it may just be your death, too. If you want a place removed and pathed, get it removed and pathed. Let the pathology report prove if it was something or not. If your dr will not cooperate, go somewhere else. It's that simple. You will have to be your own best advocate. Open your mouth if you have to.

3. Melanoma does NOT always begin on the body surface or on skin or in moles or where the sun shines. It can begin in the eye, the ear canal, the mouth, the rectum, the vagina. It can begin under any nail bed, toe or finger; it can begin on the palm or sole or between toes or fingers. There are many people who have melanoma, but no known primary and when it's found it's already in an internal organ.

4. Make sure you have a dermatologist or GP who is knowledgeable and will do a FULL BODY check. If you don't know if they will, ask. Full body means full body (read point 3). If he or she doesn't do full body, get another dr who will.

5. If you're uncomfortable with your doc doing that if you are different genders or for whatever reason, find a doctor you ARE comfortable doing that. Because, that's the dr you need if you want one who will take melanoma seriously. If your doc will not do a full body, that's not the doc you need if melanoma is a concern (and it should be a concern considering how fast it's growing!)

6. One way, and I think the best way, to find a dermatologist who is a melanoma/skin cancer specialist is to call the nearest facility/hospital that has melanoma specialist oncologists. That facility should have a topnotch dermatology department that has melanoma specialists..and several to choose from in case you want a particular gender. They will also know of those in private practice that are topnotch when it comes to being proactive against melanoma and skin cancer.

7. I travel over two hours to my female dermatologist who is a melanoma specialist at Duke and she is worth the travel.

8. Be proactive yourself. Know your body, in and out. Get anything that is of concern checked out. The life you save may be your own.

charis