May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Nearly 10,000 people die each year as a result of melanoma. While it is not the most common form of skin cancer, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
I consider myself lucky — I had melanoma and it was diagnosed and treated in time. For several years, I had a small spot on my cheek that resembled a freckle that was smaller than the surface of a pencil eraser.
My wife and daughter wanted me to make an appointment to see Dr. McCagh about the mark on my face, but I used my work schedule and the fact that it had been there for years to avoid making an appointment.
I started to pay attention to the way the spot looked when I shaved, and I noticed that it had changed shape, size, and color.
I began to look at photos online of skin cancers and realized it was very possible that the mark on my face could be melanoma.
On Jan. 15 the Times-News ran a story about a Maryland state trooper who was diagnosed with melanoma, had several surgeries, and was undergoing cancer treatment.
After reading about the state trooper’s battle with cancer, I made an appointment with Dr. McCagh. He biopsied the spot on Jan. 24. The next day, he called to tell me that it was, in fact, melanoma.
I had surgery on Jan. 31 to remove the remaining tissue that had surrounded the cancer. Fortunately, the melanoma had not yet spread and I did not have to undergo additional treatment. I now follow up with lab tests and an appointment with Dr. McCagh every six months.
Workers whose daily routine leaves them exposed to the sun (for example, those in the building and construction trades, outside line, and utility industries) need to be aware that they have an increased risk of developing melanoma.
It is important to see your dermatologist to check for melanoma and learn about ways to protect yourself. Time is of the essence — 98 percent of melanoma is curable if caught early.
I am incredibly thankful to my wife, daughter, the state trooper who shared his story, and to Dr. McCagh and his staff that I am part of this 98 percent.
It is my hope sharing my story will encourage someone else to take the time to take a second look at a spot on their face, listen to their family, and make an appointment with their dermatologist to be checked.
Brian G. Malloy