TAMPA, Fla. — A local doctor said the scar on her face should serve as a reminder to others to not postpone their annual health care visits.
Dr. Jill Hechtman delivers babies as an OB-GYN in Tampa. She admits she used the pandemic as an excuse to delay seeing a dermatologist.
"I was busy seeing patients and so we were struggling ourselves with COVID and kind of blew it off for a little bit," she said.
She noticed a beauty mark on her face last year. She said her sister encouraged her to see a dermatologist.
"It started as a small little dot on my face that I noticed, but I was like 'oh I was just kind of getting a beauty mark' and then over time it started to get a little bit bigger and so probably over about 8 months, I really started to notice the change," said Dr. Hechtman.
Dr. Hechtman said she eventually made an appointment with a dermatologist. After a biopsy, she learned she had invasive melanoma and had surgery to remove it in December.
"I'm super pale. I'm always covered. I wear hats, sunscreen and so I was very surprised at my diagnosis," she said.
Dr. Hechtman is sharing her story so others do not postpone their annual checkups.
The first Monday in May is known as Melanoma Monday. The month of May is used to spread awareness for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
People should regularly check their skin for abnormal moles. If you notice changes, see a dermatologist to have it checked.
Dr. Michael Harrington is a plastic surgeon and associate professor at the University of South Florida. He removed the melanoma from Hechtman's face and also did reconstructive surgery on her face.
He explained why a large incision is needed.
"Melanoma is treated based on the depth of the lesion. A lot of skin cancers are basically how big it is, but melanoma is based on how deep it goes into the second layer of the skin or dermis and hers was 0.4 millimeters in depth which makes it a thin melanoma," said Dr. Harrington. "With melanoma, you need to get a good centimeter margin around the area to make sure it doesn’t come back."
Hechtman did not need chemotherapy or radiation.
Dr. Harrington urges people to go to a dermatologist for annual skin checkups. He said the pandemic caused people to delay their appointments.
"In Florida, we started opening up earlier than in other states so we saw a huge influx of skin cancers, melanomas in particular probably around June...June, July, August around that time frame because people were coming back to get their biopsies," he said.
Dr. Hechtman said she feels fortunate. The scar on her face does not bother her.
"I was very lucky, but it was right on the border so had I delayed it even further that would have been concerning. I would have had to have chemo, radiation," she said. "I’m actually a doctor and I made the mistake of delaying care."
"I want you to go out go see your doctor," she added.