May is Melanoma Awareness Month and here are two interesting Melanoma stories followed by a little advice.
The story about Melanoma has been pretty simple. If you catch it early, it's fairly easy to get rid of it (if you call surgery easy) and if you don't your life expectancy is about five years. It's worse when you get to the advanced stages of the disease. At that point you've been look at a life expectancy of 12-18 months.
That may be changing.
Former President Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with an advanced case of Melanoma that had spread to his liver. Carter started taking an experimental drug that he says cure him of Cancer.
According to this story by NBC News, the drug is called Keytruda and has done amazing things. People who were looking at death sentences are now in remission and living regular lives. The drug works by attacking the Cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells alone. That means there are no side effects. Win/Win for everyone.
The one drawback is the price. It costs $150,000 a year but it's covered by insurance.
Is Keytruda a miracle drug? Maybe...I'll bet Jimmy Carter would say yes.
The next story has to do with sunscreen. If you're spending time outside, the best way to protect yourself from the sun is by using sunscreen. It's recommended that you use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. You're suppose to use a golf ball sized glob, spread it on your body and repeat every two hours.
One little problem....this week a story broke that SPF ratings were not as high as advertised on the bottle. Turns out a lot of 30 SPF sunscreens turned out to be really #7 SPF's. Instead of protecting yourself, you're subjecting yourself to the dangers of the sun.
What can you do to avoid this? Here's the story from WebMD and buy the recommended sunscreens. In a lot of cases, they're more expensive but in the long run it's a lot cheaper than getting skin cancer.
Finally, a little advice. Because this is Melanoma & Skin Cancer Awareness Month, you'll hear a lot of talk about Dermatologists. If you've never had a skin cancer you should be seeing your Dermie about once a year. Melanoma/Skin Cancer patients see theirs from monthly to every six months depending on their case.
One problem is it's hard to get in to see them. Their schedules are always full. The waiting time could be four to six months. That's a long wait. DON'T LET THAT SCARE YOU....and don't wait that long. Dermatologists have a lot of cancellations and you need to take advantage of that. Keep calling them and ask about cancellations. It works. My last appointment went from two months out to the next day. I also threatened to come to the office and sit in the waiting room all day of necessary. It's a little extreme but keep it in your back pocket, if needed.
As always, I like to end these Melanoma pieces with some rules you should live by:
Keep out of the sun during peak hours
Use sunscreen. The higher spf the better
Wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses
Stay out of tanning beds
Here's a piece about how I found out about Melanoma.
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