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Guard Your Skin!

Two bouts of melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, inspire Jackie Ulrich to speak out.

“It’s important to get your skin and your moles thoroughly checked by a professional,” says the 50-year-old from Portland, N.D. “That’s your best chance for finding skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable.”

With skin cancer on the rise, you, too, could benefit from a skin cancer screening, now available at Sanford Dermatology & Laser Clinic in Fargo. Performed by a dermatologist, this painless check of the skin and moles takes just minutes, but can be lifesaving.

Jackie’s first melanoma

Jackie’s skin cancer history goes back 21 years. Pregnant with her third child, she noticed a new mole. Because it didn’t appear suspicious, the decision to remove it was up to her.

“I insisted on it,” she says. “My mom died of cancer in 1983 and I didn’t want to take any chances.”

Jackie made the right decision. Tests on the mole indicated melanoma. Fortunately it was caught early enough to require surgery only.

Two decades passed and thoughts of melanoma took a backseat to a busy life. So did important preventive steps including thorough skin checks and consistent use of sunscreen.

“I was always more vigilant about the kids using sunscreen than myself,” she says.

Today’s expertise triumphs

Jackie’s second melanoma diagnosis came in November 2012. For months she’d had a small dark spot near her right eye. She covered it with makeup, assuming it was nothing. But her two daughters, both registered nurses, urged her to get it checked.

The concern led to an appointment with Dr. Yulia Khan, dermatologist at Sanford Dermatology & Laser Clinic. Dr. Khan examined the spot and removed it. Nothing alarming.

“But that wasn’t all,” says Jackie. “Dr. Khan recommended a whole-body check. That’s how she discovered an abnormal mole on my back. I never would’ve found it or identified it as abnormal. To me, it didn’t even look bad.”

The biopsy showed melanoma. Three weeks later Jackie underwent an in-office procedure to remove it. Thanks to early detection, no further treatment was needed.

“I was so fortunate to have a dermatologist who recognized the mole as abnormal and took charge,” she says. “Dr. Khan was fantastic! She was also very clear in explaining exactly what I needed to do to help prevent future problems. I’m now much more determined to consistently use sunscreen and get my periodic skin checks.”

Do you need a skin cancer screening?

Though national guidelines vary, Dr. Khan recommends a skin cancer screening for individuals with any of the following:

  • A new mole that looks different from the rest.
  • A personal history of skin cancer.
  • A family history of multiple skin cancers.
  • Numerous moles (40+).
  • Moles larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Decades of sun-related skin damage.
  • A transplant history including immunosuppressive medication.
  • “We also recommend a skin cancer screening for anyone who has difficulty doing a thorough check of their own skin. And not just the areas exposed to sun,” says Dr. Khan. “Melanoma can develop anywhere there are skin cells, including under the fingernails and inside the eyes.”

    Dermatologists bring extensive expertise to a skin cancer screening including years of training and experience. Many use a special light device called a dermoscope, which allows them to see the magnified network of pigment underneath the skin.

    “As dermatologists, we’ve seen thousands of moles,” says Dr. Khan. “We have the knowledge to distinguish between normal and abnormal.”

    Schedule your screening!

    Call Sanford Dermatology at 701-234-8860 to schedule your skin cancer screening. Appointments are readily available, and insurance often covers this type of screening, particularly if you have a mole that concerns you.

    “A skin cancer screening is absolutely the best way to detect skin cancer early, when it’s most curable,” says Dr. Khan. “A screening is nothing to fear.”

    For Jackie, the early detection of melanoma makes a quality-of-life difference. From great family times at the lake to an upcoming trip to Ireland, she loves her life.

    “I hate to think what would’ve happened if my melanoma hadn’t been detected early,” she says. “I’ve had so many wonderful years and hope to have many more. I feel blessed.”

    Posted Date: May 2013