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Patients need to help physicians find melanoma

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 7:11 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - When we talk about melanoma, we show pictures of people out in the sun, unprotected.

Exposure to UV light, including tanning beds put patients at risk for melanoma. A family history, fair skin, a history of burning are risk factors as well.

Erin Wilday had none of those.

“I knew it was an aggressive form of cancer,” she says.

As a matter of fact, she was at the dermatologist for another reason, and simply mentioned a mole on her leg had changed.

An examination, and a sample sent to pathology, Erin got an unexpected call.

“I was terrified. We didn’t know what stage it was. It was scary,” says Erin. A surgeon removed the small mole. But a large scar was left.

“What it looks like, and how big it is? You worry about saving someone’s life,” says Dr. Cindy Lamerson, a dermatologist with Nevada Center for Dermatology. Dr. Lamerson says it’s a small price to pay.

Left alone melanoma can spread to other parts of the body where removal and treatment of the cancer becomes more complex.

While she can spot some obvious signs of melanoma, sometimes she says the skin cancer doesn’t fit into a particular category.

She says her biggest ally in defeating the disease is the patient himself. They are more apt to notice changes and bring them to her attention.

“I really honed in on that change for her,” says Dr. Lamerson. So, I had to listen to the patient. And low and behold with my dermoscopy it looked ok. But under a microscope it was melanoma,” she says.

Catching Melanoma in its earliest stages is important. The survival rates reflect that. If it is localized you have a 99% survival rate within five years.

If it spreads to other parts of the body, that number goes down to 27%.

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