It was just a spot — a small, raised area that popped up above Michelle Havens’ left eye.
But it didn’t go away. And it became irritated when she washed her face. Sometimes, it bled.
Havens decided to get it checked out at the Christiana Care Helen F. Graham Cancer Center’s annual free skin cancer screening and awareness event.
“I had gotten several severe sunburns as a teenager, plus my mom had a precancerous growth removed from her face,” said the 46-year-old Bear woman. “Even though I’ve worn sunblock for years, I knew I was at risk.”
Since 1990, Christiana Care and the Academy of Dermatology have offered free screenings for skin cancer through the Melanoma Monday campaign to help people get diagnosed early, when the disease is highly curable. Patients also are educated on ways to prevent skin cancer.
This year, 185 people were screened at the event, held May 22–23 at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and staffed by volunteers from Christiana Care, the Delaware Diamond Chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society, Delaware Technical Community College students and the Delaware Chapter of the Academy of Dermatology. The event was promoted in various ways, including e-mails from Christiana Care, flyers at nail salons, through churches and through employers such as JP Morgan Chase and the State of Delaware.
As attendees awaited their exams, Nora Katurakes, Community Health Outreach and Education manager, briefed them on what to expect.
“When you go into the room, you strip down to your undies, and then the dermatologist will come in and look at your skin,” she explained. “If there’s something that you are worried about, be sure to mention it to the doctor.”
The outreach team also will follow up with people who need additional care after screening to ensure they get the help they need.
“Do you have a dermatologist? Are you insured?” Katurakes asked. “These are things that we can help you with.”
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. One in six Americans will develop some form of the disease during his or her lifetime. More than 2 million cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Delaware has the fifth highest rate of melanoma. From 1995–1999 and 2005–2009 cases increased 64 percent, compared to the national average of 20 percent.
People with freckles, fair skin and red or blond hair are at greater risk. But people of African, Asian and Latin descent can develop skin cancer, too.
Herminia Caceres, 68, was one of 19 individuals to attend from Los Abuelos, a senior program at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington. Two Spanish language interpreters were at the event to ease communication.
“I was concerned because I have a discolored patch on my cheek,” Caceres said through an interpreter. “I was very happy to learn that it wasn’t anything to worry about.”
Caceres, who comes from the Dominican Republic, also learned the importance of wearing sunscreen. That is a practice she planned to begin immediately after the event, starting with the sunscreen sample she received that night.
Ana Santos, 63, who also is from the Dominican Republic, recently had a mole removed from her face. No one in her family has been diagnosed with skin cancer, but a number of relatives have been treated for other forms of cancer.
“I am afraid because of my genetics, so I am getting checked,” she said.
Both Caceres and Santos were reassured that they do not have skin cancer.
But the dermatologist who examined Havens agreed that the spot on her face could be a problem. She was referred for follow-up care.
“I am so glad I came to the screening,” she said. “When screening is free and convenient, there’s no reason to put things off.”
Photo gallery: Free Skin Screenings
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