Several years ago I read an article in a magazine about skin cancer and decided to get a skin exam.  I had just finished college and didn’t really think the dermatologist was going to find anything.  To my surprise, the dermatologist found a spot she wanted to do further tests on.  I was told not to worry about it and assured it was probably nothing.  A few days later, I found out I had a spot that was malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.  Luckily it was caught really early.  After a wide incision to remove it, all margins came back clear and no further treatment was needed. The diagnosis was shocking because I never thought I would be diagnosed with something like that, but it’s a reminder that this can happen to anyone.

I would strongly encourage everyone to wear sunscreen, use hats and sun protection clothing, stay out of the sun during peak hours, get regular skin exams and check your own skin for any irregular-looking spots.  An easy way to remember what to look for is to think of it as the ABCDE’s of skin cancer.  Look for asymmetrical spots which are not the same on both sides; borders that are irregular; color such as spots that have more than one color within them; diameter, in particular spots that are bigger than a pencil eraser and evolving such as spots that are changing in shape or color.

Remember, the key is prevention and early detection.  Melanoma can spread quickly but is highly curable when caught early, making early detection extremely critical.

 

 

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Rachel Heitmann has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. Rachel has worked at the Tennessee Department of Health for the past 12 years. Currently, Rachel is the Section Chief for the Injury Prevention and Detection section within the Tennessee Department of Health Division of Family Health and Wellness. In this position, she is responsible for the overall function of several programs including Injury Prevention, Child Fatality Review, Maternal Mortality Review, Traumatic Brain Injury and Infant Mortality Reduction.

About The Author

Rachel Heitmann has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. Rachel has worked at the Tennessee Department of Health for the past 12 years. Currently, Rachel is the Section Chief for the Injury Prevention and Detection section within the Tennessee Department of Health Division of Family Health and Wellness. In this position, she is responsible for the overall function of several programs including Injury Prevention, Child Fatality Review, Maternal Mortality Review, Traumatic Brain Injury and Infant Mortality Reduction.

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