Doctors are begging people to get tested for skin cancer

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.

Despite that fact, a number of local doctors said they aren't seeing people get tested.

Medical Oncologist with St. Bernards Cancer Center, Dr. Mazen Khalil, said there are some things people can look out for.

"Skin cancer is the most diagnosed cancer worldwide," Dr. Khalil said. "It's also easily detectable, actually. If you look at any mole or change in your skin color or any change in size, that should lead to a visit with a physician to determine if this is something that needs to be biopsied to determine if it is skin cancer or not."

Dr. Khalil also said skin cancer is easily cured when you catch it early.

"Skin cancer diagnosed in the early stage is highly curable," Dr. Khalil said. "And it is most likely cured by a simple incision or removing of spot from the skin. Most patients with the early stage of skin cancer don't require any further treatment besides that. Unfortunately, what we're not seeing is we're not seeing patients diagnosed early. We're seeing patients diagnosed in the late stage when the treatment for cancer is more complex. And its stage four or advanced stage the cancer may not be curable."

Dr. Khalil said skin cancer risks are a problem in areas where the sun is out more year-round.

"This is not only a problem in Region 8," Dr. Khalil said. "But all in the South, where the sun is pretty common most of the time of the year. And we know sun exposure, UV light exposure increases risk for skin cancer."

A dermatologist with St. Bernards, Dr. Mallory Hurst, said many don't realize the importance of getting screened.

"Most people don't know the importance to skin cancer screening," Dr. Hurst said. "They also don't really know what to look for on their skin. So, I think it is important to come in once a year and have a board-certified dermatologist look at your skin because we've trained for years to know what's benign or what's malignant and could be potentially harmful for our patients in the future."

Both Dr. Khalil and Dr. Hurst said there are things to watch for.

"If you have any spot on your skin that you're concerned about," Dr. Khalil said. "One that is new, changing in size or color then please talk to your doctor about it and see if it needs to be evaluated by a skin specialist."

"If you have anything on your skin," Dr. Hurst said. "That is a non-healing sore that you've had for longer than six weeks, that's definitely something that should be checked out. No matter if you think it was started by a trauma or if it just kind of appeared out of nowhere. That's one thing we tell you to look for. Additionally, any moles that are changing rapidly, growing, bleeding or becoming symptomatic with pain. That should also be evaluated by a dermatologist."

Dr. Khalil said not only is a skin screening quick but if an area needs to be biopsied that, too, is fast.

"If there are any spots on the skin that we are concerned about," Dr. Khalil said. "A biopsy is very simple. It's done at outpatient. The result comes within a few days and the pathologist that examined the biopsy can determine if it is cancer or not."

Dr. Hurst said there is a common misconception that the color of your skin can determine how much of a risk you are.

"Some people with darker skin tones," Dr. Hurst said. "Often times think they are not at risk for skin cancer but that is actually incorrect. Even people with the darkest skin type can get melanoma as well as non-melanoma skin cancer. So, no matter what color skin you have or if you tend to tan easily your still at an increased risk for skin cancer."

Dr. Hurst said skin cancer is the most common one.

"Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer," Dr. Hurst said. "It accounts for any other cancer combined so it is the most common type. One out of five Americans will develop skin cancer before the age of 70. So, that's a 20% chance you will get skin cancer. So, I think it is important to get screened. Even if it's just one time by a board-certified dermatologist."

Dr. Hurst said with the area being such a large, outdoor community, people need to be coming in and getting screened on a regular basis.

"Given that many people in this community are outdoors," Dr. Hurst said. "Farming or exercising or playing sports. A lot of our children are playing sports growing up through the years. So, all of that cumulative sun exposure or that sun exposure that you're having right now puts you at risk for skin cancer. So, no matter your age, skin type or what activities you do, if you do spend time outside then your putting yourself at risk. So, you do need to get screened once a year."

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