YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – May is Melanoma Awareness Month. It’s the rarest but most deadly form of skin cancer. And because there aren’t any symptoms besides noticing a mole, getting annual skin checks are key in melanoma treatment.
First News weekend anchor Abbie Schrader’s sister, Stacie Schrader, has melanoma. Stacie was diagnosed with melanoma last year at 31 years old.
“I never wore sunscreen when I was outside, and I would just stay outside for hours and just bake,” Stacie said. “I knew if my skin was red, I would have a nice tan afterward.”
All that time in the sun without proper protection led Stacie to notice a mole on her back that was never there before. After a visit to her doctor and getting the all clear, she knew she had to make a change. That was in 2011. Fast forward to 2016, the mole had grown.
A biopsy showed the mole had deepened and was, in fact, stage two melanoma.
“When I had my second surgery, they saw that my lymph nodes came back clear. It didn’t spread, but they did remove such a large chunk from my back. It was the size of a football. They had to pull my skin over and stitch it back up,” Stacie said.
These days for Stacie, it’s about staying protected from the sun’s rays and accepting a new lifestyle.
“I thought if I was tan, I looked thinner, looked prettier but when it comes to the alternative, which is having cancer or possibly death, I’ll stay pale,” Stacie said.
Stacie makes sure to wear sunscreen each day and she meets with her dermatologist for skin checks every six months. So far, there haven’t been any signs of the melanoma coming back.
First News weekend anchor Abbie Schrader now knows that she has several risk factors for skin cancer – fair skin, blue eyes, a history of using tanning beds, and a family member with melanoma. She knew a skin check was in her future.Watch: Anchor shares sister’s warning to sun seekers: Part 2
Abbie scheduled a visit with Dr. Jennifer Lloyd, a dermatologist in Boardman. She said the whole process took less than 3 minutes.
Lloyd said there five distinct signs of what everyone should be looking for when they are examining a growth on their body.
A is for Asymmetry, is it even?
B is for border, is it darker than the rest of the mole?
C is for color, is the color even?
D is for diameter, is it bigger than a pencil eraser?
E is for evolving, it growing and changing over time?
“It’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s better to come in and say hey this is looking different to me. Get it checked,” Lloyd said.
Like most cancers, early detection is crucial. Lloyd said in those early cases, a simple surgery is usually successful and then checks should happen every six months from that point on.
A simple trick Dr. Lloyd shared for anyone out in the sun – if your shadow is taller than you, that’s morning and late afternoon which are safer times. But when your shadow is shorter, usually between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., stay inside.