Skin screening saves Woodridge man's life

September 03, 2015 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

The Hoffman family is familiar with cancer – too familiar.

Greg Hoffman, 56, of Woodridge, had prostate cancer. So did his father. His mother had breast cancer. So did his wife.

Hoffman’s son and two brothers each faced different cancers.

It wasn’t a big shock when Hoffman learned in July 2015 that he had melanoma. Instead of letting cancer build fear in his mind, Hoffman took immediate action.

“It’s like, okay, let’s take care of it,” Hoffman said.

Dr. George Salti, surgical oncologist and co-medical director of the Edward Cancer Center, discovered the melanoma during a free skin screening – an invite Hoffman’s wife, Deborah, picked up when she had a follow-up exam at the Edward Cancer Center.

“She said, ‘Why don’t we go get that thing checked out on your back?’” Hoffman said. “I thought, fine, might as well. It’s free.”

Dr. Salti decided the spot needed to be removed and examined. The spot wasn’t big – three-eighths of an inch – but it was confirmed as cancer. Hoffman returned to Dr. Salti one more time so he could remove the tissue that had surrounded the spot to ensure the cancer was gone.

It was caught early, which was likely life-saving for Hoffman.

“Screening saves lives,” Dr. Salti said. “The earlier skin cancer is diagnosed, the better chance you will have for a cure.”

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and can spread quickly throughout the body.

The ABCDE system can help you remember possible symptoms of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half.
  • Borders: The edges of the growth are irregular.
  • Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown or black, and sometimes white, red or blue. A mixture of colors may appear within one sore.
  • Diameter: The spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter – about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolution: The mole keeps changing appearance.

You might not notice a small spot if you don't look carefully. Have yearly body checks by a dermatologist and examine your skin once a month.

Dr. Salti recommends regular skin self-exams, which involve checking your own skin for abnormal growths or unusual changes to help you catch suspicious skin problems early. Use a hand mirror to check hard-to-see places. Call your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

Along with the self-exams, protect your skin from the sun. Wear sunscreen, hats, long-sleeved shirts and pants.

Skin self-exam tips

What to look for:

  • Any change in a mole, including size, shape, color, soreness or pain
  • Bleeding moles
  • A discolored area under a fingernail or toenail not caused by injury
  • General darkening of the skin unrelated to sun exposure
  • ABCDE: Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter and Evolution

Learn more about screenings and diagnosis at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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