The responses from readers of recent columns on melanoma keep coming in asking for more information or to share their story. It's a great idea to keep the conversation going, if only because it is one of the fastest-spreading cancers and has no treatment protocol beyond surgery. It's where breast cancer was back in the 1970's.
Catch it early is about the only advice doctors can offer at the moment. Considering how deadly this cancer is, and that doctors say most often it's caught too late because people ignore moles, something needs to be done to find, at the very least, a treatment and a little hope.
Malignant Melanoma has been the forgotten cancer with both the general public, who don't understand how deadly it is, and by most cancer researchers. But we can change all that with a little more education and a spotlight on a cancer that is killing more Americans with each passing year.
Most readers have wanted to talk about someone they lost, such as Maggie Biggane, who wrote, "Our daughter, Mollie, was twenty when she passed away from melanoma. She was a college sophomore and although she had her regular physical, it was not caught. The location was high on the back of her thigh." They have started a foundation devoted to educating students and more can be found at: www.molliesfund.org.
Others are witnesses to the constant fight to find the cancer early. Charlotte Burrell, who works at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, wrote, "You are right, melanoma is deadly and can spread like wildfire. At M. D. Anderson we know that many people can survive even with dark prognoses. However, there are some cancers that still defeat us and melanoma is one of them. Best of luck and keep educating the public. Hopefully, someone will listen." More about MD Anderson can be found at www.mdanderson.org.
And still others are blessed to get that early diagnosis and help a loved one fight to live. A single mother, Rebecca, wrote, "In August of this year my sixteen year old son was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma. His was discovered in a mole on his upper arm. He has been cut on over and over and finally on September 8th, two days before his sixteenth birthday he under went a four and a half hour surgery at Tulane in New Orleans.
"He had two wonderful surgeons, Dr. McGinness, a nuclear medicine surgeon who removed five lymph nodes and Dr. Newsome, a reconstructive plastic surgeon, that removed a very large section of his upper arm (three plus inches deep and two centimeters around). Our oncologist is Dr. Morales at Children's Hospital and my son's outcome is looking real good. His lymph nodes were negative for cancer. Until August, I knew nothing about Melanoma; now I know way too much."
As I said in a previous column, and it bears repeating, malignant melanoma has been the fastest growing cancer in America for the past 20 years. Currently, its ranked 8th among occurrence of cancers in this country and accounts for nearly two percent of all cancer deaths, but it is moving quickly up the line.
It's time to make some new statistics and save thousands of lives by supporting cancer research for malignant melanoma. The Melanoma Research Foundation, at www.melanoma.org, is a great place to start with even a small donation. The MRF supplies grants to scientists looking for a cure or even a beginning treatment. Remember, right now there is nothing beyond cutting away the tissue and hoping for clean edges, and this cancer spreads very rapidly.
The foundation also recently received four stars from Charity Navigator, the highest rating from a well-respected independent evaluator of charities. The MRF is the only organization in the United States devoted to melanoma to receive the distinguished rating.
That means that more of your donated dollars go straight to researching protocols and eventually a way to cure a disease that takes the lives of young and old very quickly.
There is a treatment out there, and you can help them find it. Write a check, put a stamp on the envelope and then take ten minutes and check each other for any moles that are not symmetrical, have recently changed color or size or are not smooth to the touch. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com, or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.