In the last few years, there have been many advances in the treatment of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Until recently, treatment options for skin cancers such as melanoma included: removal of cancerous tissue, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Now, newly developed immunotherapies and targeted therapies are significantly improving patient survival in late stages of melanoma by targeting specific parts of cancerous cells or by boosting the immune system to fight cancer.
The earlier skin cancer is detected, the more likely you are to have a successful treatment outcome, which is why healthcare professionals cannot stress enough the importance of regular self-examinations and check-ups by your primary care provider or a dermatologist. While early detection is best, sometimes you miss the early warning signs and aren’t diagnosed until cancer has reached a later stage. For local melanoma patients, Cone Health created the Cone Health Cancer Services Multidisciplinary Melanoma and Sarcoma Program, or the Melanoma Center, that brings together experienced specialists to care for patients where they live.
After diagnosis, your provider can refer you to the Melanoma Center where a general surgeon will assess your case, stage the cancer and start discussing treatment options with you. Then, during their monthly meeting, the multidisciplinary team of dermatopathologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, surgeons and other specialists meet to discuss treatment for each new case. The new Melanoma Center offers patients the same high standard of care available at academic medical centers, but close to home and loved ones.
Dr. Natalie Depcik-Smith is a dermatopathologist and the medical director of the Melanoma Treatment Center at the Cone Health Cancer Center. She is also the Director of Dermatopathology at Greensboro Pathology Associates. Dr. Depcik-Smith earned her medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She then completed a one-year internship in internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, a four-year residency in pathology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and a one-year fellowship in dermatopathology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Dr. Depcik-Smith has over twelve years of experience in cancer research.