Some of you may have seen a recent article from the Post and Courier regarding the rise in Melanoma cases. The patient interviewed for this article is one of our own Germain Dermatology patients, Natalie Grantham, and she has offered to shed some extra light on her brush with cancer and her experience with Melanoma with each of you.
We hope you all take a moment to read and realize that this can happen to anyone, and with regular skin checks you too can save your life.
“I don’t remember when I started seeing a dermatologist but I know I was in high school. It was something both my parents took seriously and something they just led me to do. I always seemed to have a mole or freckle removed at my annual skin checks, but nothing was ever out of the ordinary.
I moved to Charleston in 2009 and began to see Dr. Germain and her staff for my yearly checkups. In early 2014 I went in for my annual screening and they removed a tiny, literally pin sized, dark spot from my lower stomach/pubic area. A few weeks later they called to let me know that the spot was atypical (showed pre cancerous cells), luckily they had gotten all the margins and told me, as a precaution, I should begin doing skin checks every 6 months, instead of annually.
This past November (2016) I went in for my skin check with Germain Dermatology and saw Physician Assistant Holly Carter. Due to day-to-day life this skin check was about 8 months past when I should have been back in for a screening. At my appointment Holly removed 4 spots (two on my back, one on my upper arm and one on the top of my thigh) that didn’t look quite right to her.
To my surprise less than two weeks later Dr. Germain called me personally to let me know that the spot on my thigh came back as Melanoma, and that I needed to schedule an appointment for a MOHs procedure as soon as possible. Luckily Dr. Joseph McGowan III (MOHs Surgeon at Germain Dermatology) had an opening the next day and I made the appointment. My Diagnosis was Clark’s Level II-III Malignant Melanoma with .45MM margins. I have since learned that these margins are SMALL for which for the incision and depth they had to go is terrifying.
In the Photo with purple marker this is the border they cut- removed the affected tissue and some muscle then closed it back together. I had about 17-20 stitches. Pathology has come back and Dr. McGowan got 100% of the margins and this spot is ALL CLEAR!
*Not to mention I am healing beautifully with minimal scarring & no issues with recovery!
I am always very cautious about new spots or things changing and I knew this spot didn’t look right- it was the first thing I pointed out to Holly at my appointment. I also should have been more rigorous about getting in every 6 months. Had I gone in a few months earlier the possibility of me catching it before it was malignant was great— on the flip side had I waited even another 4 weeks the possibility of them sending me to an oncologist was vast as well. I will now be doing checks ever 3 months until I have a clear biopsy then back to every 6 months for the rest of my life… and you can bet I will be in that door every 6 months!
What do I think caused it? Tanning Beds. As an adult I know so much more about how horrible tanning beds are for you and I lived in them all through my youth. As far as family history goes my Maternal Uncle had Malignant Melanoma removed a few years back, but nothing else that my family knows of. People also think that if they wear sunscreen now, as they age, they are safe- most melanoma is caused from damage created years ago that arises with age. No matter how safe you are now melanoma can surface. Moral of the story- GET CHECKED!If you see a dermatologist, if you pay attention to your body- you will catch melanoma early enough. Knowledge & prevention is key! Your skin is your largest organ and people don’t understand the danger of where ‘Skin’ Cancer can spread and how fast it does.
Dr. McGowan checks all my lymph nodes (neck, arm pits, groin) at each appointment just to be safe. The three other A-Typical spots removed have also been further excised and we are anxiously awaiting the all clear on those.”
We thank Natalie for sharing her real life story with us, and hope her personal account and shock of Melanoma encourages you to be a little extra sun safe and to see a dermatologist regulary. To read her feature in the Post and Courier click here.