Saturday, May 4, 2013
Rebecca Morgan and her daughter, Chelsea Hatfield, drove from Great Bend to Wichita Saturday because they wanted to know, once and for all, if they had something to be worried about.
"The history of my family having skin cancer and cancer all together, it's scary," Hatfield said.
Both women had something in particular on their skin they wanted a doctor to take a look at.
"When I was six months old, I had a tumor on my face. It was burnt off with dry ice," Morgan said. "I was always told to keep checking on it."
"(I'm worried) about the mole on my back; it's gotten bigger," Hatfield said.
Hatfield, Morgan, and hundreds of other people were able to have their skin examined Saturday for free at Wichita's GraceMed as part of the 25th annual free skin cancer screening day. Most people were in and out of the building in 30 minutes.
The free screenings, done by area dermatologists, were available to all people in the community, regardless of their insurance status.
"I would never want a lack of insurance or lack of financial needs to be a reason for someone not to be seen, so this is a good opportunity for them to get their initial evaluation," Dr. Kesha Buster said.
More than 10,000 people are expected to die from skin cancer this year. But doctors say most forms of skin cancer are highly treatable if detected early.
"Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world and it's our job to get the word out there and give people the opportunity to get it checked," Dr. Buster said.
Buster says during the screenings she's able to educate people on what to look for and what could be putting them at risk.
"Some patients have someone they go to regularly but others don't have anyone who has examined their skin," Buster said.
Buster says she tells patients, especially those with children, most people get the majority of their harmful sun exposure between the ages of 0 and 18.
She urges people, young and old, to avoid blistering sunburns. And, she stresses the importance of using sunscreen.
One of her key messages is this: avoid tanning beds.
"They increase the risk of melanoma by 70 percent if someone goes tanning before the age of 30, and (it's harmful) even after 30." Buster said.
In addition to prevention education, a large part of what the doctors do during the screenings is put people at ease.
If they find cancerous lesions, doctors are able to direct people to the right resources and educate them about their treatment options.
"Last year, we had 412 people show up and 148 potential skin cancers were detected, 9 of which were potential melanomas," said Dana Kemp, Regional Director of Communications for the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Buster says for local people with low income or with no insurance, one of the options to secure treatment can be the program Project Access.
"If a patient is a resident of Sedgwick County, they can register for that and get free medical care through that," Dr. Buster said.
If doctors don't find cancerous cells, they're able to deliver the good news and give people that peace of mind.
Good news is what both Hatfield and Morgan received Saturday.
"No cancer! Nothing to worry about! It's such a relief," Morgan said.
"I could breathe (finally), lots of weight came off my shoulders," Hatfield said.
The screening event was sponsored by the American Cancer Society, Via Christi Health, Wichita-Area Dermatologists, GraceMed Health Clinic, United Way, Project Access, The Coleman Company, Models & Images, Union Rescue Mission, American Academy of Dermatology, and the Medical Society of Sedgwick County.
For more information, call (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org/holymoley