St. Joseph's/Candler: Detecting skin cancer early

St. Joseph's/ Candler: Detecting skin cancer early

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Skin cancer can be hard to detect on ourselves.  We see our moles every day and it may not be obvious when they change. It may not even always be obvious to your dermatologist. 
However, there is a way to track every single mole on your body.  It's called mole mapping.

"It is, I think, devastating for people to get that news," said Heidi Fedak, mole mapping patient.

Fedak has been treated for melanoma multiple times. Now, she's taking control of her health by using mole mapping technology at St. Joseph's/Candler in Savannah.

"You can look at something, but how do you know if it has changed over time if you don't know what it looked like before," she asked.

That's the idea behind the mole safe technology.

"It's a way to digitally, and dermatoscopically look at every single pigmented nevus that's bigger than three millimeters," said Dr. Howard Zaren, Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion, St. Joseph's/Candler.
Dr. Zaren says his staff takes pictures of your body.

"Between your toes, between the digits of your hand, in your hair, your scalp, everywhere.  I mean everywhere," he said.

The images are sent to New Zealand where doctors review them. Dr. Zaren also reviews them.

"If there's something abnormal, we tell the patient and we tell the dermatologist that there's an abnormality that needs to be biopsied," he said.

Dr. Zaren says it works so well because doctors can compare what your moles look like now with what they looked like last year and the year before.  He says we live in an area where we should be especially vigilant and, unlike many other cancers, skin cancer is on the rise.

"We live in the melanoma belt.  Between southern Florida and southern California.  Every cancer in this cancer center, we see 2,000 new cancers a year, is on the downswing: breast, colorectal, lung, are doing down.  The incidents are going down, except for melanoma. We see seven percent more melanoma per year."

Fedak says since she started mole mapping a few years ago doctors have caught abnormalities before they've spread or gotten worse.  However, that's not all.

"It gives me peace of mind that someone's tracking that over time," she said.

Dr. Zaren says there are only seven places in the country that use this specific technology.

For more information on skin cancer and mole mapping, please click here.

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