New equipment at Med Center aims to catch skin cancer early
Early skin cancer detection saves lives, and last month the Telluride Regional Medical Center added a new tool to their arsenal that can aid early diagnosis during regular primary care visits.
With funding from the Telluride Medical Center Foundation, a dermascope has been added to the medical center's quiver and should enable providers to better diagnose skin cancers and differentiate benign skin lesions from malignant ones.
A tool, according to Dr. Kent Gaylord, is essentially is a magnified lens with a polarized light source that allows practitioners to magnify lesions and also look past the upper surface of the skin to see down into the dermis.
“Looking at a mole with the naked eye can be like trying to see the bottom of lake without polarized sunglasses,” said Dr. Kent Gaylord who recently received special training for the dermascope.
Primary care providers expect to diagnose skin cancers at earlier more treatable stages, and also differentiate benign skin lesions from malignant ones, which could help patients avoid unnecessary skin biopsies and visits to other specialized providers in Montrose, Durango, Grand Junction or further.
Eric Johnson, nurse practitioner at the Telluride Regional Medical Center, recommends annual skin screenings for everyone living in Telluride.
"We are physically closer to the sun, and there is more ultraviolet light. Particularly in the winter, people don't seem to think about it as much, but our sun exposure is greater because those rays bounce back up from the snow."
Individuals with blonde or red hair, freckles and a history of chronic sun exposure, sunburns or tanning bed use, and those with melanoma in the family are at greater risk for melanoma.
In its early stages, melanoma can be treated with surgical removal, and is often first found by regular skin screenings.
"Some melanoma cancers show up on non-sun exposed areas," said Johnson. "And with melanoma especially, it's important to catch it early."
Though in recent years, newer types of immunotherapy and targeted therapies have shown a great deal of promise in treating advanced melanomas, still, skin cancer still takes approximately 80,000 lives a year in the U.S. alone.