To the editor:
May is Melanoma Awareness Month. I want you to know of this horrific disease so that my father’s story does not become yours nor your patients’. My father was diagnosed with an early stage melanoma in August 2010. In October 2011 he discovered a cluster of malignant lymph nodes.
By January 2012 the melanoma had spread to his lungs, liver, thoracic and sacral spine, and by May to the right adrenal glad and sinus cavity. Melanoma took his life one year ago this month — at age 52.
Melanoma is the fastest-growing cancer diagnosis. One out of 50 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma. Caught early the 10 year survival rate is 95 percent. However, the median life expectancy drops to less than one year if the disease spreads to distant organs.
The key to beating the melanoma beast is education. I urge patients and clinicians to seek information rooted in sound and recent research. From the avoidance of UV rays, to effective detection of malignant moles, to guidelines for the appropriate use of a sentinel node biopsy.
Clinicians are encouraged to stay up to date on screening and treatment guidelines by completing continuing education credits in this area. Check out MelanomaCare.org, for examples.
As we enter the summer months, please seek out ways to protect yourself and your family. The Melanoma Research Foundation, American Cancer Society and the Shade Foundation are examples of educational resources I urge you to use.
Sarah Royse Schirmer