MAYWOOD, Ill. -- At an employee health fair at Loyola University Medical Center in November, Joan Rojek thought it couldn't hurt to have some strange-looking blemishes on her arm examined by a dermatologist.
Dr. Sheetal Mehta, assistant professor, division of dermatology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, performed the examination. What she found came as complete shock to Rojek, 54, and her family.
"She said the ones I was worried about were nothing of concern, but she did identify another growth that I didn't even know I had," said Rojek, a nurse at Loyola. "She had me in her office the next day for a biopsy and two weeks later the results came back as a melanoma."
Without warning Rojek found herself among the more than 60,000 Americans who each year develop new melanomas, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Fortunately, since Rojek took advantage of a free screening, her melanoma was diagnosed and treated in time by Mehta.
"Melanoma can be a devastating disease. However, early detection and treatment can help ensure the disease does not progress to a life-threatening situation," said Mehta, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. "Early melanoma detection is the key for optimal outcome. Regular screenings are imperative tool for early detection."
In conjunction with Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month in May, Mehta and other Loyola University Health System dermatologists will commemorate Melanoma Monday by offering free skin cancer screenings that will take place throughout the day on Monday, May 4. An appointment is required. To schedule, call (888) LUHS-888.
The screenings, which may involve a full body exam or focus on areas of concern, will take place from:
* 1 to 5 p.m. at the Cardinal Bernardin Center, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood.
* 8 a.m. to noon at the Loyola Center for Health at Homer Glen, 15750 Marian Drive, Homer Glen.
* 8 a.m. to noon at the Loyola Center for Health at Wheaton, 140 E. Loop Road, Wheaton.
* 1 to 5 p.m. at the Loyola Center for Health at LaGrange Park, 321 N. LaGrange Road, LaGrange Park.
In 2009, more than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, according to the ACS. Melanoma is the most serious form since it has a strong tendency to metastasize, or spread, to other locations in the body.
"Melanoma risk factors include tanning bed exposure, history of skin cancers and blistering sun burns at a young age," Mehta said. "Anyone who notices an abnormal patch on their skin or a change in the appearance of a mole should make an appointment with a dermatologist, who is specially trained in the detection of all types of skin cancers."
When detected in its earliest stages and treated properly, melanomas are highly curable. For an early, thin malignant melanoma that is only on the surface of the skin, the five-year survival rate is 96 percent. About 81 percent of melanomas are diagnosed at a local stage
"Patients who may have unusual moles or lesions anywhere on their body should be checked by a professional. These types of growths have potential to be a melanoma, but can be easily diagnosed." Mehta said. "People should take every opportunity to get screened. This way if something of risk is identified, there is a much better chance of a good prognosis."
For more information on melanoma, visit www.loyolamedicine.org/Medical_Services/Cancer/What_We_Do/skin_cancer.cfm