MEBANE, N.C. – It's just another thing on the ever growing to-do list: the yearly visit with the dermatologist for a skin check. And if people do make the appointment, there's a very solid chance they'll reschedule it.
"Our phone rings all day with people rescheduling their appointment. If they're not in pain or bleeding, they don't have an urgent reason to come, but by the time a mole is acting up, it's often too late," said dermatologist Dr. Ana Benitez-Graham. "I have seen so many melanomas in younger people, in their 30s and 40s. It can be much worse than the other cancers, pancreatic, lung. They don't match melanoma."
I get how crucial it is to keep that appointment. Instead of putting it off to another day, I went to my appointment -- and I'm so glad I did.
"Your melanoma didn't look bad, but it was already invasive,” the doctor said.
Dr. Graham discovered my melanoma during a routine skin check. I wasn't bothered by a particular mole, nor did I feel that any had changed significantly over the past year.
"What you have, it's really important, months can make a huge difference. You are lucky you caught it early,” the doctor said.
My melanoma is considered stage 1 and my treatment includes surgery.
Melanoma is most common in women between the ages of 40 and 60. It's less common than other cancers, however, it is much more dangerous if not found in the early stages.
"Melanoma unfortunately is not one of those nice cancers that goes by the textbooks. The appearance can change sometimes, sometimes it doesn't, it can look like the smallest little mole and it's melanoma," said Dr. Graham. "Women will come in concerned about an age spot or wrinkles, but then I'll notice something they should really be concerned about. I'm pretty much humbled by melanoma on a daily basis. I'm pretty aggressive about taking moles off that just don't look or feel right. I tell a patient I'm just taking it off because I want to sleep tonight."