Posted by John Ager on 06 February 2012.
Over the years, we have litigated our share of medical malpractice cases involving the failure to diagnose and treat skin cancer, usually resulting in death or a greatly reduced life expectancy. Skin cancer is one of the the most common forms of cancer, affecting over 2 million people each year. Skin cancers can range from fairly innocuous basil cell carcinoma to raviging and deadly malignant melanoma. As with most medical conditions, the best offense is a good defense. Prevention is paramount and when that does not happen, catching the disease early can mean the difference between life and death.
This means stay out of the sun and when you can’t, wear protection such as a hat and liberal amounts of sunscreen. Check you skin regularly for unusual marks. Of course, you’ve already heard this advice before if you have lived in Arizona for any length of time. Unfortunately, deeply tanned skin is seen by many as a status symbol and frequently glorified as a badge of honor, especially by the younger generation. Unfortunately, the damage that it done, especially early in life, is irreversible and frequently the cause cancer long after bad habits have ended.
Fortunately, modern medicine continues to improve and when prevention does not work, new treatment methods are helping patients, even when a cancer is not caught early on. As an example, the FDA just approved a new drug, Erivedge, which was tested right here in the Valley, for the treatment of advanced skin cancer. It has proved to be effective even in patients whose cancer is so advanced they are no longer candidates for other therapies or surgery. The drug is unique because it part of an emerging class of drugs which are targeted at changes in the genes that regulate cells, enabling them to be much more specific. Attacking cancer, and a variety of other conditions, at a molecular level is clearly the wave of the future.
Better treatments should never be a substitute for prevention or encourage complacency in the clinician. Still, its nice to know that they are available if someone makes a mistake.