Tampa, Fla - Kristi Anson is at her dermatologist's office with a suspicious area on her skin she wants taken off. While doctors think it's probably nothing, she has a history of being in the sun and tanning beds and she has a family history of melanoma, including herself. She says, "It was just a regular mole. It wasn't irregular shaped. It was little darker but that was it."
Dr. Panos Vasiloudes says melanoma can be tricky. It can be dark with unusual borders but it can also be red and flaky-like dry skin or hidden in hair or between toes.
Kristi found this area herself, but dermatologist Matt Zook says there's a number of new ways to detect this deadly skin cancer. "Historically the full body scan has been the gold standard and still is but there's been a couple of things people have started using. Dermatoscopy is a procedure people use in the office. That involves the use of a handheld device that shines L-E-D lights onto the skin, and it's magnified through a handheld magnifying piece. "
And he says the new Melafind is even more sophisticated. "Melafind involves a handheld instrument that will shine basically ten different types of light into the skin. That light is reflected back and captured by a video camera and it's sent to a lap top. The lap top analyzes the characteristics of the images that are captured and compares it to a data base of about one thousand or so melanoma's or normal moles."
Kristi's melanoma was treated the standard way - by surgically removing it. Dr Zook says, "Years ago you used to excise it and if necessary treat it with interferon or radiation, neither which are very effective and both of those treatments are hard to tolerate. In 2011 some new treatments came out which are really pretty exciting. So these biologics, what they do is interact with certain mutations some melanomas are likely to have and they shut down the abnormalities."
They are very effective, but Dr. Panos Vasiloudes says problem is the effectiveness may not last. "They show promising results at the beginning, but as the patients stay on this medication longer and longer, the cell creates pathways to bypass the blockage."
So the treatment is still not a cure.