By Rachel Frederickson, PA-C
In the fall of 2021, I met with a patient named Anne (not real name) for a rash on her arms. Towards the end of her appointment, she mentioned that she had some moles on her trunk that were irritated by her clothing. We scheduled a follow-up visit to remove those moles and I recommended a total body skin exam as well.
During Anne’s return visit, I noticed a small dark mole on her right leg while performing her skin exam. The mole had some atypical features and Anne informed me that the mole had scabbed and fallen off during her recent pregnancy, then grew back. Due to these changes and the atypical appearance, I performed a biopsy on the mole, as well as a few other moles on her trunk. I received the biopsy report a few days before Christmas and called Anne with the difficult news: she had a melanoma on her right leg.
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer. It is estimated by the Skin Cancer Foundation that roughly 197,700 new melanoma cases will be diagnosed in the United States during 2022 alone. Of those cases, an estimated 7,680 will prove fatal.
Melanoma is caused, in large part, by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. However, this form of skin cancer can also show up on areas of the body that experience little to no direct sun exposure. On average, a person’s risk of developing melanoma in their lifetime is doubled if that person has had 5 or more sunburns. But just one blistering sunburn in childhood doubles a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life.
A melanoma diagnosis is very concerning, but it’s good to remember that even this very serious form of skin cancer is treatable, especially when diagnosed early
Due to Anne’s young age and the depth of her melanoma, aggressive surgical treatment was recommended. One of the alarming characteristics of melanoma is the ease by which it can spread to other organs in the body. Anne saw Dr. John James, a surgeon with Mountain View Surgical Associates who excised the cancer and biopsied lymph nodes in her leg to ensure that the melanoma had not metastasized. Shortly after the procedure, Anne received the good news that her melanoma was fully excised, and her lymph nodes tested negative for cancer.
Anne, a resident of Castle Rock, is a young mother of two small children. She is currently taking time away from her career to raise her infant and toddler. Since our first meeting, we now follow Anne closely at Vanguard with total body skin exams to watch for any new or changing lesions.
In every interaction with Anne, I have been inspired by her resolve and her calm demeanor in the face of great uncertainty. She desires to share her story with others to highlight skin cancer awareness, and by doing so, may save lives.
*Story has been shared with patient permission. Name has been changed.
Rachel Frederickson, PA-C has practiced dermatology since 2002. She takes care of patients of all ages and specializes in skin cancer diagnosis, allergic contact dermatitis, acne and other medical skin conditions. Rachel is accepting new patients in the Castle Rock office.
To schedule your skin exam, call Vanguard at (719) 355-1585 or fill out our online appointment request form today.