PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It kills about 10,000 people every year, but doctors say it is preventable and treatable if caught early.
Katie Michaud is grateful for these moments.
“I saw my life flash before my eyes,” Michaud said.
Just as she was about to deliver her second child, a trip to the dermatologist to check what she thought was a wart on the back of her arm turned out to be stage 3 melanoma.
“I was just completely distraught,” she said.
“Melanoma is curable if detected early,” says Dr. Lynn Schuchter, an oncologist with Penn Medicine.
She has led a number of research trials on melanoma.
“We have a lot of new therapies but for the most part once melanoma travels thru the bloodstream to distant sites. It’s not curable,” said Schuchter.
Melanoma has been increasing in recent years. It’s now one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women.
Nearly 90 percent are thought to be caused by exposure to UV light from indoor tanning and the sun.
Katie was induced early so she could have surgery right away. She was left with a large scar but needed no further treatment because the cancer had not spread.
She hopes other young women take her advice and stay away from tanning booths and always wear sunscreen.
“One, just protect yourselves and your children because you never know it could happen to you. I never thought it could happen to me and it did and thinking back on all the times I went tanning to get that nice bronze I wish I had passed,” said Michaud.
She says it’s just not worth the risk.
Penn dermatologists developed an app called Melasight. They send patients home with photos of their skin to use in self-exams so they can look for differences which can be an early warning sign.
Dr. Schuchter is hosting a patient awareness event this Friday with melanoma survivor and former Phillie Mike Schmidt. It’s free for anyone at risk for or affected by melanoma.