Premier surgeon outlines warning signs of melanoma

In 1995 the American Academy of Dermatology designated the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday to raise awareness of this potentially fatal skin cancer and to encourage early detection.

“Early detection is critical,” reminds Premier Surgical Associates surgical oncologist Dr. Paul S. Dudrick. “According to the American Cancer Society, when detected at Stage I, its earliest stage, the five-year survival rate for melanoma is 97 percent. If the disease progresses to its most advanced stage, Stage IV, the five-year survival rate drops to 15-20 percent.”

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States. Approximately 65 percent of melanoma cases are caused by sunlight or tanning beds, so the importance of avoiding that exposure cannot be overstated. However, even parts of the body not exposed to the sun, such as the bottom of a foot, are at risk.

The best way to find melanoma at its earliest stage is conducting self-exams at least once a month to look for changes in moles, freckles or other marks on your skin. The American Cancer Society’s “ABCD” helps identify potentially dangerous moles:

A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.

B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.

C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or there may be patches of pink, red, white or blue.

D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than about one-quarter inch (the size of a pencil eraser), but melanomas can be smaller than this.

Anyone with “ABCD” signs or moles that change shape or color should consult their primary care physician. In addition to the “ABCDs,” watch for these warning signs:

A sore that does not heal;

Spread of color from the border of a spot to the surrounding skin;

Redness or new swelling beyond the border;

Itchiness, tenderness or pain; or

Change in the surface of a mole -- scaliness, oozing, bleeding or a new bump or nodule.

“I encourage everyone to observe Melanoma Monday by assessing risk factors and to practice skin safety year-round,” says Dudrick.

Headquartered in Knoxville, Premier Surgical Associates has 27 surgeons who perform general, vascular, endovascular, vein, bariatric, breast and laparoscopic (minimally invasive) procedures.

Premier has offices in Knoxville, Maryville, Jefferson City, Lenoir City and Seymour.

Premier physicians perform surgeries at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, Parkwest Medical Center, Parkwest Surgery Center, Mercy Medical Center St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s Ambulatory Center, Physicians Surgery Center, Blount Memorial Hospital and Maryville Surgical Center in Maryville.

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