Cyndi's Two Cents

It is Melanoma Awareness Month


It is springtime in the Midwest and farmers are farming to beat the band. Many farmers and farm families will spend long days in tractor cabs and in the direct sun getting the crop in the ground. When it is finally time for a break, it will more than likely be outdoors.

 I will shout it from the rooftops if given the opportunity: with over five million cases diagnosed in the United States every year, skin cancer is our country’s most common cancer.

“I wear black for melanoma awareness.”

I proudly wear a t-shirt with those words emblazoned across the front in honor of a dear friend of mine who died 10 years ago from this most serious type of skin cancers.

Charlie had a mole removed from his back in May of 2010. It was sent to a pathology laboratory. It came back clear. In January of 2012 he noticed there was a growth where the mole had been removed. He went back and had that growth removed and sent to a pathology lab. That specimen revealed the presence of melanoma. Charlie had surgery to remove a large area on his back. The surgeon had a difficult time believing the cancer was not there the first time with the melanoma being at stage 3C at this point. Sadly, it turns out he was right. The pathology lab had missed the cancer. 

Charlie had chemotherapy treatments for several months. In October of 2013, his scans came back cancer-free, but the celebration was short-lived. In January of 2014, the cancer came back with a vengeance, having progressed to Stage IV melanoma. 

Charlie died 8 months later.

I wrote about Charlie during Melanoma Awareness Month in this column 5 years ago. At the time, I had two farmer friends who were being treated for melanoma. Neither survived.

Skin cancer, as all cancers are, is a horrible disease. It is also one of the most preventable of all cancers in the United States. Skin cancer is the cancer you can see. Check yourself in the mirror and look for anything new, changing, or unusual.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma is not only the best-known type of skin cancer; it is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanomas (arising from pigment-producing melanocytes) can become hard to treat and fatal if allowed to progress. The good news is that if it is caught early, a patient has an estimated 5-year survival rate of 99 percent. This is why it is so important to learn to recognize it and to get to a dermatologist post-haste!

Most melanomas appear black or dark brown, but can also appear white, pink, red, purple, or blue. Over-exposure to the sun can put you at risk, but if you have relatives that have had melanomas, your risk of developing the disease also increases exponentially.

Be vigilant about your skin in all seasons. See a doctor immediately if you find a suspicious mole, growth, or lesion. 

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