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Melanoma Cancer Awareness | Understanding the hidden dangers of the deadliest of skin cancers

Melanoma is less common than some other types of skin cancer, but it is more likely to grow and spread

TEMPLE, Texas — There are three types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. May is Melanoma Awareness Month and while melanoma isn't the most common form of skin cancer, it is the most dangerous.

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that begins in cells known as melanocytes and is more dangerous because of its ability to spread to other organs more rapidly.

"We live in Texas and a lot of us are of European descent and we are not that far from the equator and so we get a lot of UV radiation here, especially for those that are active," said Dr. Katie Fiala, a Dermatologist with Baylor Scott & White Health in Temple.

Dr. Fiala said those with hobbies like fishing, golfing, tennis and hunting, as well as those who work for a living in the field, it's understood they will be in the sun and absorbing dangerous UV rays but caution against not taking precautions to help protect your skin.

"The most UV radiation happens between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so if you do need to be out, try and get your chores done, your gardening and activities done before ten and you can go back out before four and you can have a little less UV damage," she said.

Credit: Denver Osteopathic Foundation

Catching it early is vital and can be life-changing for those diagnosed with skin cancer, especially so young. She said those who are proactive can be seen and have it treated the same day with very little impact on their daily lives.

"Melanoma can be a very aggressive skin cancer and can affect people that are very young," Dr. Fiala explained. "I have taken care of and treated people who are in there 20s and 30s and who have melanoma and have their whole lives ahead of them." 

Baylor Scott & White in Temple believes in the power of helping those and being there for patients who are struggling with cancer, the aftereffects of the illness and who may need more support. In 2017 the hospital launched Onward: The Survivorship Journey, a cancer survivorship program

The program offers multiple programs, including helping patients manage common cancer-related physical, emotional and behavioral health challenges. They also offer genetic counseling, wellness and support programs, a Facebook group for networking tools and an online resource.

Dr. Lynne Palamara, a nurse and survivorship coordinator, has worked closely with cancer patients and said a program like Onward is vital for many to find healing in a time of uncertainty.

"I see patients at both the beginning of treatment and some after their treatment so the true benefit of the program is quality of life," Dr. Palamara explained.

Dr. Palamara does an individual assessment of every patient she meets and spends time with them to find out what challenges they face, and what they are most concerned about.

"What are their biggest worries, what are their biggest concerns and then we address those issues first," she explained when talking about those who are beginning treatment. "If patients have finished treatment, I focus more on the issues they may be experiencing related to having a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment."

Fatigue and worry about cancer returning are two of the biggest things Dr. Palamara helps patients through. She said mindfulness is important for patients to practice, adding everyone could probably use it as we navigate life.

Dr. Palamara believes the survivorship program is crucial in healing.

"It really is all connected so it's very important to be able to find some sort of balance and where they feel some emotional stability and emotional support and that way they can deal with and cope with the stresses that come along with the physical as well as the psychological impact of cancer and cancer treatment," she said.

For more on the Onward program at Baylor Scott & White, click here and to get a referral to the program, please consult with your doctor. Also, for those who want to attend, Baylor Scott & White is hosting a Melanoma Talk today beginning at noon. You can register here.