Jan Adelman’s experience with skin cancer was a bit different.
The Blaine resident had surgery in 2001 to remove a swollen lymph node, a standard procedure. The next day she received the phone call no one wants to get: “It’s melanoma.”
Adelman, 69, had shots of interferon, which helps rev up the immune system to fight the melanoma cells, and exams twice a year.
Five years later, doctors found another cancerous lymph node in her thigh. Adelman became part of a study for a melanoma vaccination at the Mayo Clinic. After another eight years, everything seemed fine.
Then, earlier this year, she was admitted to the emergency room because of abdominal pain. The scan showed a mass in the pelvic area. Once again, it was melanoma, and the cancer was removed. As of this month, Adelman was cancer-free and considered a cancer survivor.
“Everybody should have a check once a year, because you don’t know what skin cancer looks like,” said Adelman, a retired Cummins Onan worker. “You can miss it.”
On Nov. 19, residents can take part in a free skin-cancer screening hosted by the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute at the Unity Hospital campus in Fridley.
Dr. David King, oncologist at the institute, said the free screening is an attempt to raise awareness for various types of skin cancer, including melanoma.
“Melanoma is one of those cancers where if you can catch it early, you are much more apt a cure than if it progresses and spreads,” King said. “Then you’ll have significant problems.”
Adelman has had a relatively good course despite the various treatments, King said.
“But this is the thing we are trying to prevent by doing these screenings,” he said. “It’s just trying to raise awareness.”
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Excessive exposure to the sun, sunburns, a family history and certain types of moles and lesions can increase a person’s risks.
Those with fair skin, a history of excessive exposure to sun, moles or first-degree relative diagnosed with melanoma are at a higher risk of developing that type of skin cancer, King said.
Adelman said she insists that her children and grandchildren protect themselves all year. Even during the winter when the sun may not be visible, there’s still a chance of exposure to harmful ultraviolet exposure.
“You just don’t know. This can happen to anybody,” Adelman said. “And for free you can’t beat that. There’s no excuse.”