CLEVELAND – “Melanoma Monday” is a day set aside each year to help raise awareness about melanoma, which is considered the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Caitlin Jones was diagnosed with melanoma in 2020. At the time, she didn’t think the mole on top of her head could be cancerous, especially since she had it biopsied four years earlier. But, her husband knew something didn’t look right.
“My husband, who is quite a bit taller than I am, noticed that that spot was changing. It was much larger in size and changing color. He said, ‘I really think you should go in and have that looked at’,” she recalled.
Caitlin said she was shocked when her dermatologist told her it had turned into melanoma. After processing the news, she met with doctors at Cleveland Clinic.
“Scalp skin cancer in general is very common. Other cancers can arise there like squamous cell and basil cell, but we see a fair share of melanoma in the scalp,” said Brian Gastman, MD, Surgical Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Melanoma and High-Risk Skin Cancer Program.
Dr. Gastman surgically removed the melanoma and examined more than a dozen of Caitlin’s lymph nodes. Thankfully, the cancer hadn’t spread to anywhere else in her body.
“I do think that had she waited much longer, she could have been toppled into a much worse stage, worse prognosis, and even to be cured, would’ve gone through a much more rigorous and intense treatment,” said Dr. Gastman.
Caitlin said she’s glad her husband pushed her to go get checked out and gets emotional thinking about what could’ve happened had she waited.
“I try not to think about it because I know how quickly things can change with melanoma and how weeks and months can significantly change the diagnosis and prognosis, so looking back, I was probably right on time,” she said.
These days, she’s extra cautious when out in the sun and encourages others to do the same.
“You get one skin and one life, so take care of it,” she pleaded.
When it comes to prevention, Dr. Gastman said it’s important to regularly apply sun screen and avoid getting sun burned. UV protective clothing can also be helpful if you’re going to be outdoors for a long period of time.