May 9, 2003

Skin cancer screening provides community service

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A 13-foot helium balloon will mark the Kids Say Thanks smoking area, located outside Medical Center North.

Skin cancer screening provides community service

Almost 300 people attended a free skin cancer screening held Saturday, May 3 at VUMC. Physicians from Vanderbilt’s division of Dermatology, other community dermatologists, nurses from Vanderbilt and the community, and staffers from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center came together to staff the screening, which was sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology and the Nashville Dermatological Society.

Dr. Michel McDonald, assistant professor of Medicine, who organized the screening, saw about 30 patients herself, including one patient who had a likely melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

The patient, a 48-year-old man, showed the physician a quarter-shaped, irregular-bordered and -colored pigmented area on his chest.

“That needs to come off—soon,” she said. She explained to the patient that she suspected that the lesion was melanoma, that he should call his primary care physician as soon as possible to arrange for its removal. “I want this taken care of as soon as possible,” she said, and she made sure that would happen, taking down the name of the patient’s doctor so she could follow up. “You are the perfect person to come to one of these [screenings],” she told him before he left.

McDonald, who has screened hundreds of patients over the course of several years, said this was the first time she had found a lesion that she so strongly suspected was melanoma. “The most fulfilling thing was getting him taken care of soon,” she said.

Perhaps the youngest person screened during the morning was 2-year-old Zoe Kendall, daughter of Amy Kendall of Biological Sciences. Both Zoe and Amy Kendall’s husband Larry came along for a family screening.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing that they do screenings like this—it’s a service to the community,” Larry Kendall, who, like the rest of the family, received a good report from McDonald, said. “It wasn’t frightening,” he said with a laugh. “I thought they might start scraping pieces of skin.”

“This is an important thing for Vanderbilt to do. It’s a wonderful community offering to have the skin cancer screening,” said Marilyn Dubree, director of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer for VUMC, after her uneventful screening. “It was very well organized; as people were leaving they were commenting on how great it was.”

“I’m pleased with the turnout and with all the wonderful volunteers from Vanderbilt,” McDonald said.

Another screening for staff and faculty will be held Wednesday, May 28, from 8 a.m. to noon in the Dermatology clinic of TVC. The number to call for an appointment is 343-0300.

In addition, the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is sponsoring two of its series “Cancer Answer Evenings” devoted to skin cancer topics:

• Tuesday, May 13, “Melanoma: Get Serious About Skin Cancer,” part of the ongoing Cancer Answer series. Dr. Jeff Sosman will discuss the most serious form of skin cancer, which will account for about 7,400 of the 9,600 skin cancer deaths in the United States this year. Frances Williams Preston Building, 8th Floor Conference Center, 5:30-6:30 p.m. More info: 936-5855.

• Tuesday, May 27, “Skin Cancer: Made in the Shade,” part of the Cancer Answer series. Dr. John Zic will talk about early detection, treatment options and the latest research advances. Frances Williams Preston Building, 8th Floor Conference Center, 5:30-6:30 p.m. More info: 936-5855.