On two consecutive days in my dermatology clinic, I met two sets of married couples. They came in for full-body skin examinations. In both cases, the patient’s wife had concerns about a spot on her husband’s skin. She was the one who made the appointments. Without her efforts, the man would likely have never sought dermatology care.
These types of situations are nothing unusual in dermatology. Daily in all our clinics at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands we see loved ones who have appointments together, frequently for skin checks or specific areas of concern. In most of those cases, one of the individuals is particularly concerned about the other. And as I pointed out, without this concern and the effort, it is very likely the appointments never would have been made.
How to Save a Life?
Throughout my career, I have been able to give good news and reassurance to many of my patients. However, skin cancer is exceedingly common. And the most serious of all skin cancers, melanoma, is dangerous and something that we do diagnose on a regular basis.
Now back to the two couples. One was a younger couple. The other two have been married for more than 30 years. In both cases, they had concerns about a spot on the skin that was dark and pigmented. When I spoke with them and examined the spot, I shared this concern. For that reason, a very simple procedure known as a skin biopsy was needed in both cases. Ultimately with the pathology, I was able to give good news to one couple, making a diagnosis of a completely normal spot on the skin.
With the second couple, the news was different. The spot was a melanoma. But what is remarkable is that we diagnosed it as an early-stage melanoma. One that is completely curable!
This is just one example of countless cases I have seen in my experience in dermatology where someone saved the life of their loved one by going to the effort of getting them to be seen for a dermatology skin check.
Here is the moral of the story
Keep an eye on your loved ones, and be that person to speak up, encourage, and assist them in getting seen. If you notice something on their skin that looks abnormal, it is critically important that you go to the effort to compel them to get in and have it checked.
Realize that the very best outcome is that your concern was wrong. In other words, they are checked out and given reassurance or the “all clear.” I wish this could happen every time, but the truth is, all too often it is not the case. However, we still do very frequently catch skin cancer in the early stages when it is totally curable.
What should you be looking for?
Let’s get a bit more “clinical” for just a minute. Numerous resources are on the web for what constitutes an abnormal spot. But boiling that down, here are the cardinal features to be mindful of (think about having your loved one see a dermatologist if you see any of these):
- Dark spots
- Changing spots
- Dark spots that break more than 2 of the ABCDE rules (check out this blog for more info: When To Worry About A Mole
- Areas that bleed easily
- Growing spots
The American Academy of Dermatology has great resources for patients to learn more about the identification of skin cancer. Please check out their link to learn much more about what to look for: Skin Cancer
Also, other issues may also prompt you to recommend your loved one get checked. These include:
- Working outdoors (construction, farming, landscaping, etc…)
- Spending a great deal of time outdoors for recreational activities (boating, golf, etc…)
- Fair skin and an easy tendency to sunburn, especially with red/reddish hair color
- A family history of skin cancer, especially if it was melanoma
Remember, you just might save their life.
And if they don’t have a bad spot, then your efforts may have simply helped them get established with a dermatology provider who at some point down the road, with surveillance, may catch an early skin cancer while it is still curable. You also give yourself more peace of mind, so that you can sleep better knowing your loved one has healthy skin.
Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists
I feel very fortunate to work with the best dermatology team in the region at the Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands. Leading our clinical teams are five dermatology providers who have extensive experience in the diagnosis and management of all skin diseases, including skin cancer. We have two primary clinics in Omaha (129th and Pacific St.) our new location on Maple Street, and Council Bluffs (Valley View Drive).
Skin Cancer is its own epidemic problem. For this reason, all our local clinics have remained open throughout the COVID 19 pandemic so we can remain available to treat skin problems. During this entire time, we have continued to help our patients with their skin issues, diagnosing, and treating numerous skin cancers—including melanomas. We continue to follow guidance from health officials and local and national government agencies to keep our patients, staff, and the community safe. If we may assist you or your loved one, please reach out to us at (402) 933-3770 or request an appointment online.
Enjoy your summer and be safe!
-Dr. Jim Shehan