Working alongside the physical therapy team at Therapeutic Associates as a massage therapist, I am in a position that allows me to help educate our patients while also watching for signs of melanoma during treatment.
Thanks to a new class offered by the dermatology department at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), “The Skinny on Skin,” I am prepared not only to look for signs of melanoma but also to have conversations with clients when I identify something suspicious. This short but impactful class is designed for professionals who interact with clients daily, specifically those who spend extensive amounts of time viewing and working with those clients’ skin – massage therapists, hairdressers, tattoo artists, estheticians, etc. In these professions, we are uniquely positioned to spot skin cancer, particularly due to our familiarity of how our clients’ skin looks, especially in places they don’t’ see themselves such as the back of their neck and their scalp.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. It is estimated that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. And, while melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, it is the deadliest.
As someone whose family includes multiple skin cancer survivors and who’s supporting a friend currently battling the disease, I am grateful for the extended education that has expanded my knowledge beyond the outdated basic ABCs of identifying a suspicious mole or other lesion. I know now to also look for Ds and Es. And, despite not being able to diagnose skin cancer, I am confident in knowing that I have the skills to identify something that warrants further attention from a dermatologist or physician and to encourage our patients to seek that care.
While this particular OHSU class is designed for certain professionals, everyone can make a commitment to learning more about identifying melanoma and skin cancer. Early detection is critical, and prevention is the best first step to combatting skin cancer and melanoma. We all have the opportunity to share in the responsibility of checking our own skin, our family members’ skin and even our friends’ skin. Furthermore, the next time you’re getting a massage or a haircut, a facial or new ink, ask the person treating you about their skin cancer knowledge and help spread awareness about the resources available to them.
With summer just around the corner, now is a great time to spread awareness and education about skin cancer. OHSU offers ample resources for the War on Melanoma to update your knowledge and empower you to have an impact on your own health and the health of those you love. Check out the MoleMapperTM mole tracking app for iPhone or play the TAPAMOLE game presented by the Mayo Clinic. And before you head out to soak up the rays, remember to put on your sunscreen and don your favorite wide-brimmed hat, your skin will thank you.