This year, more people than ever will be diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. As a two-time melanoma survivor, my goal is to bring awareness to this disease and help people change how they think about their skin and sun exposure.
What should you look for?
The Skin Cancer Foundation uses the “Melanoma Alphabet” to illustrate the early warning signs of melanoma:
A stands for asymmetry: If you draw a line through a mole and the two halves do not match, this means that it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.
B stands for border: The borders of a mole that are uneven may be a warning sign of an early melanoma.
C stands for color: A mole or patch of skin that has a variety of colors is abnormal and should be checked. Melanomas may be red, white, or blue, in addition to being different shades of brown or black.
D stands for diameter: Look at the size of a pencil eraser. Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than a pencil eraser.
E stands for evolving or changing: Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait—such as bleeding, itching, or crusting—may be a sign of a melanoma.
Learn these signs. If anything looks different or falls into one of the above categories, make an appointment with your doctor right away. These are not proof of melanoma but mean that you should get checked as soon as you can.
How can you protect yourself?
Protect yourself from the sun with clothing. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for maximum protection. Always wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Stay in the shade, whenever possible, and stay out of sun, if you can, between the peak sun-exposure hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
What can you do to help?
The research program at New York University Cancer Center is dedicated to finding a way to change melanoma history. I am a patient in the program and have been under the care of the NYU Interdisciplinary Melanoma Cooperative Group—made up of medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, dermatologists, radiation oncologists, immunologists, basic research scientists, nurses, research assistants, nutritionists, and social workers—for the past four years. The program is making great strides in the development of new treatments for melanoma.
Please support the NYU Melanoma Research Fund and make melanoma a thing of the past. To make a donation to the NYU Melanoma Research Fund, please send checks to:
NYU Melanoma Research Fund
c/o Dr. Anna C. Pavlick
NYU Clinical Cancer Center, 9th Floor
160 East 34th Street
New York, NY 10016
You can also help make a difference to all cancer patients by encouraging your Congressional representative to cosponsor the “Assuring and Improving Cancer Treatment Education and Cancer Symptom Management Act of 2009.” Here’s how:
Ask Your Representative to Cosponsor the “Assuring and Improving Cancer Treatment Education and Cancer Symptom Management Act of 2009”!
Over the past few months, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) has been working with Representatives Steve Israel (D-NY) and Patrick Tiberi (R-OH) to have the “Assuring and Improving Cancer Treatment Education and Cancer Symptom Management Act of 2009” (H.R. 1927) reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This important legislation provides physician practices with Medicare reimbursement for cancer patient treatment education provided by oncology nurses. The bill helps ensure beneficiaries will access this service by waiving the application of Medicare coinsurance requirements. The legislation also calls for an expansion of research regarding symptom management and oncology nursing interventions through the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Medicine. Taken together, all the components of H.R. 1927 will help ensure that people with cancer have access to the comprehensive symptom management care and information they need and deserve.
Please take a moment to send an email to your representative asking him or her to cosponsor this important bill. In the event your elected official already is a cosponsor, a template thank-you letter will be provided to you, so you can express your appreciation.
Weighing in with your members of Congress takes less than five minutes. These e-mail messages do get read and counted by Congressional offices – they DO make a difference!
For more information on melanoma and how you can get involved in fundraising or educational efforts, please go to melanoma.org.