Malignant Melanoma

In 2000, a mole on John Bass’ forehead began to grow and change colors. His family doctor referred him to a dermatologist who immediately performed a biopsy. The diagnosis was malignant melanoma.

FHCN file photo.

John takes time from his cancer fight to relax and fish.

“I went to a local cancer center, where they were very thorough,” recounts John. “That September, they did surgery to remove the mole, and they also removed six lymph nodes around my neck. They said the cancer generally goes there first if it spreads.”
After the surgery, John needed a dermatologist to regularly examine him for recurrence of the melanoma on his skin. John’s doctor recommended Alla Gruman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Family Dermatology in Osprey.
“I started seeing Dr. Gruman every year for surveillance,” elaborates John. “Then in March 2015, I felt a knot as big as a golf ball under my arm. I called the cancer center, but had trouble getting an appointment right away.
“I called Dr. Gruman and told her I couldn’t get in at the cancer center. She talked with them and got me an appointment immediately. After they checked out the knot, they told me it was metastatic melanoma. I had three to six months to live.”

Risks and Warnings

Melanoma is a form of cancer characterized by uncontrolled growth of the pigment-producing cells in the skin. It is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If it’s allowed to grow, it can quickly spread to other parts of the body.
“When melanoma is found early, however, it is very treatable,” assures Dr. Gruman. “For that reason, people need to be aware of its risk factors and warning signs.
“People who used tanning beds or had blistering sunburns between the ages of twenty and fifty are at higher risk. Others at risk are those who live in sunny climates, have had many years of sun exposure, a family history of melanoma or other cancer, fair skin and blue eyes, or many moles or large moles.”

“In March, I’ll have made it three years instead of three months, and Dr. Gruman guided me through all of it.” – John

A change in the size, color or border of a mole is a warning sign of possible skin cancer, as is the sudden presence of a new mole. Contrary to popular belief, melanoma lesions are not always dark. They may appear pink, beige or light brown.
“Some signs of melanoma are subtle,” warns Dr. Gruman. “For example, people who’ve had moles for a long time often think they are normal. These people don’t get in the habit of checking their moles, so they don’t notice any changes or the appearance of a new mole. Regular skin inspections by a dermatologist help catch melanoma in its earliest, most treatable stages.
“Melanoma is a vicious cancer. If not caught and treated early, it can cause serious morbidity and even mortality down the road years later.”

Precious Gifts

Doctors at the cancer center told John his cancer was now on his chest, under his arm and in his liver and left lung. The only thing they could do for him was enroll him in clinical trials for new cancer drugs. The first one he tried caused his cancer to grow. “The second drug was a miracle,” reports John.
“In March, I’ll have made it three years instead of three months, and Dr. Gruman guided me through all of it.”
Since the return of his melanoma, John has his skin examined by Dr. Gruman every six months. With her support, he celebrates every day as a precious gift.
“Dr. Gruman is so concerned and knowledgeable, especially about cancer,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a better doctor when it comes to knowledge and caring!”

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    • Family Dermatology

      The staff of Family Dermatology have a mission to deliver state-of-the-art medical care in a compassionate and comfortable environment. They are committed to providing patient-centered, individualized care while demonstrating the highest lev... Read More

    • Alla Gruman, MD

      Alla Gruman, MD, is board certified in pediatrics and dermatology. Dr. Gruman completed her undergraduate studies in mathematics and biology at New York University. She earned her medical degree at The Johns Hopkins University School of M... Read More