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A Refreshing Knapp – Could answer be self-exams?

By Ray Knapp

“I have been treated by my primary care physician who is not an oncologist. The doctor that did my cataract surgery in June 2016 noticed these two places, one on my left eye lid and one on my cheek and she scheduled me for surgery. She did one Sept. 2 and this one Sept. 9. I don’t know, but I think if it was caught earlier it would have been less invasive. She had to make four cuts in order to move the skin to get at the place where the cancer was removed.”

These words, by Edgar A. Rice, whose picture of his recent operation (above) certainly contrasts with the words of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force which states, “Evidence lacking to recommend visual skin cancer screening.” Their words sound a lot like the recommendation by the Institute of Medicine for women to check their own breasts for cancer, and have upped the recommended age for a mammography from age 40 to 50. I personally have a daughter who would have died had she waited to age 50.

I recently returned from Tri-Cities Skin and Cancer where Dr. Paul Benson successfully removed a skin cancer from my forehead along with a couple of pre-cancerous spots. Malignant melanomas constitute a small fraction of skin cancers but they can spread to other body parts if not treated early. They should be treated while in their preliminary stages to avoid possible death.

I had one of those things removed below my ear about 4 years ago. And I’ve had other pre-cancers removed from my face, and a cancer from my vocal cords – which I think was squamous cell. I’m unfamiliar with the names for different types. To me, cancer is cancer, and if left untreated it will generally kill you. So, I’m thankful for medical specialist like Dr. Benson, who can tell by just looking at a scab, lesion or nodule – whether it needs lab work, or not, to insure its potential for malignancy.

Both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the Institute of Medicine seem to be focused on children and educating them about avoiding developing skin cancer by using a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher and limiting their exposure to the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 or 4 p.m. That is all well and good. I love children too. However, I like people of all ages, and with a lot of them not being educated about exposure to the sun and tanning beds ultraviolet lights contributing to skin cancer, is not reason enough to write them off as a lost cause.

With about 74,000 Americans being diagnosed with skin cancer this year, and according to the National Cancer Institute, about 10,000 will die from this disease, it makes you wonder about the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force stance against a visual body scan by a specialist to detect melanoma, or other forms of skin cancer.

I’m not a betting man, or I would bet that the task force foresees more Baby Boomers arriving at Social Security/Medicare age and they’re looking at ways to save money. In other words, this discreditable recommendation is all about money and not as a benefit to cancer patients.

The same goes for the Institute of Medicine recommending the age for a mammography to increase from age 40 to 50.

We (the public) are aware that there is a monetary problem looming for a lot of governmental programs. But by the same token, we value our own lives and have little confidence in the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and Institute of Medicine that insult our intelligence with some of their recommendations.

Recommendations like this, also kind of throws cold water on Relays for Life, not just held in our county, but nationwide, and raises millions of dollars for cancer research. What’s being done with all that money?

I’m certainly not a professor of economics and don’t know how to fix the financial mess America has gotten into, but I do know there are some programs that shouldn’t be cut from the budget, and cancer screening is one of them.