The Importance of Examination
A dear friend of mine recently informed me that her doctor confirmed she has melanoma. "I have always been a ‘moley' person," she explained, and proceeded to tell me that her doctor had removed six to seven "spots" from various places on her body. The one on her right arm was where they discovered the melanoma. My heart sank; what do you say to someone who just received a diagnosis that may change the course of their life completely? We are young, relatively speaking, and still have a lot to accomplish in life.
While neither she nor I know what lies ahead, I do know enough about melanoma to be very scared for her. My mother had a very rare form that appeared on her lower leg shortly after my dad passed away in 2009. It was probably there when my dad was ill, but we were all very focused on his care. By the time she made it to the dermatologist, there were too many satellite lesions to count. A biopsy was taken and a week later we received the news. The melanoma was not fatal. However, the seriousness of the disease still hit home for me, making me realize the severity of the condition.
I have to confess: when I was 15, I was in love with tanning beds. Yes...the shameful, dreaded tanning bed. This was in the early 1980s; they had just been introduced to my little town. Oh, how I loved to spend time in that warm, vitamin D-filled chamber! Never mind all the summer days I had spent swimming without sunscreen because we didn't even know about sunscreen then, laying out in the sun in my back yard, or even better on my cousin's roof! A tan...a glorious tan!
Well, as my 40+ skin begins to show signs of abusing the sun - or UVA/UVB rays to be specific - it is my turn to visit the dermatologist soon for my first full, head-to-toe skin exam. My dad had a couple of basal and squamous cell skin cancers removed several years before his death, and my brother and sister have also had basal cell lesions removed. Although I keep a close eye on my skin for obvious reasons, there is always that hint of denial we live with; perhaps the same denial the woman with the small lump in her breast experiences. The key is not only prevention, but also early detection by a licensed professional.
Our skin is our largest organ. Check your skin on a regular basis, visiting a dermatologist to be sure that you are not overlooking anything. When it comes to your skin, there is no such thing as being too careful. We must take care of ourselves!
Editor's note: This post was written by Kelly Parmenter-Eck, APRN.
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