Regular dermatology checkups can save your life


When we think of preventive medicine, we don’t always think of preventive dermatology, but we should.

About ten years ago I started seeing a dermatologist for a skin check every year. I have a higher risk of skin cancer because it runs in my family. But really, the main reason I’m leaving is because my wife Jodie is making me do it. And as it turned out, that was a really good idea!

Finding out I had melanoma

I had some skin lesions removed which were a not very serious form of cancer called basal cell carcinoma. But in late 2021 the dermatologist’s medical assistant noticed a lesion on my scalp that worried her and she sent it for a biopsy. About a week later I found out it was melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

About melanoma

Melanoma is extremely dangerous and aggressive. If not treated early, it can spread to other organs, at which point treatment is much more difficult. And it can be deadly. In the United States in 2022 according to the Skin Cancer Foundation:

• Approximately 197,700 cases of melanoma are diagnosed.

About 99,780 of these cases will be invasive, meaning penetrating the outer layer of skin (the epidermis) and reaching the second layer (the dermis).

57,180 of these invasive cases involve males and 42,600 females.

About 7,560 people – 5,080 men and 2,750 women – will die from melanoma.

How my melanoma was treated

I had an outpatient procedure in February 2022 to have the lesion removed from my scalp. The surgeon used a technique called Mohs surgery, which has a unique advantage: the surgeon can see exactly where the cancer stops, making sure he’s removed all of the cancerous cells. This is not possible with other approaches to skin cancer surgery.

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Because my cancer was caught early, the dermatologist gave the surgery a 98-99 percent chance of success, and she was right! The operation was successful; The surgeon has everything.

I usually play basketball twice a week but had to take a few weeks off after my surgery. That was a small price to pay for being cancer free!

Watch out for melanoma

Melanoma lesions look a lot like birthmarks, those small brown spots on your skin caused by accumulations of pigment-forming cells called melanocytes. Most people have 10-40 birthmarks, which first appear in childhood and adolescence.

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Moles are usually harmless but can become cancerous. There are some signs you and your dermatologist should look out for, and it’s best to remember these with the letters ABCDE:

A asymmetryor of irregular shape

B. with a Border that is irregular, notched, or scalloped

C changes in color or uneven color distribution

D. With a diameter larger than a quarter of an inch

E Develop change in size or shape over time

Make an appointment with your doctor any time you notice any unusual skin changes. Don’t put it off – the consequences could be drastic.

Take care of myself now

I love spending time outdoors – running, hiking and biking. But now that I’ve had melanoma, I’m at a higher risk of getting it again. And sun exposure is a major risk factor for developing melanoma.

So I really have to be careful. I always have to wear a hat and sunscreen when spending a lot of time outside. And I have to see a dermatologist every six months from now on.

This experience was a huge wake-up call for me. I am very fortunate that my melanoma was discovered early and has not had a lasting impact on my life.

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The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you see a dermatologist once a year — or even more often if you’re at high risk for cancer. Regular checkups have really helped me, and it might help you too!

Independence Blue Cross members can find a dermatologist using the provider finder Tool at ibx.com/providerfinder.

This content was originally published on IBX Insights.


About Jim McManmon

Jim McManmon is Premier Account Manager at Independence Blue Cross with over 15 years experience in national account management and over 25 years in the health insurance industry. He is responsible for building advisory relationships and guiding his key accounts through the renewal process while managing open enrollments as well as on-site presentations and strategic discussions held throughout the year in the client office. It also provides executives with insight into benefit design, benefits usage reports and trends, and information on new product offerings or initiatives. Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Delaware and a master of business administration from Rutgers University.



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