In 2014 I was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
When I went for my annual skin exam, the dermatologist removed a 3 mm mole from my mid abdomen. The biopsy came back positive: a 0.8 mm malignant melanoma. The survival rate of up to 0.7 mm is 100 percent, I am lucky I went for the exam and we caught it early.
With stitches from the initial excision still in place, the dermatologist removed a 4 cm long, 2 cm wide, and 1.3 cm deep piece of tissue. The size of the melanoma determines the radius of the excision, in my case 1 cm. Since a circle does not make for a good scar, the excision was expanded to an oval. The second biopsy came back negative.
What caused the melanoma remains unknown, but I have been exposed to the sun for hours at a time. Here are a few things I am doing today to better protect myself:
• Apply sunscreen and reapply every two hours (SPF 30+)
• Cover more skin
• Wear UPF rated clothes or wash them with Sun Guard
• Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection
• Seek out shade
For the next years I have to see the dermatologist every three months, thereafter semi-annually and annually. I have followed up with FotoFinder sessions, and I performed genetic testing of the cancer cells as well as hereditary genetic testing, both negative.
An interesting skin self-exam application I came across is Dr. Mole for Android and iOS devices. It uses augmented reality technology to analyze moles for the ABCDE criteria (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution).
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. I hope to raise awareness with my case.
By: Bernd Straehle
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