A Life-Saving Itch?

Rash leads to skin screening that detects melanoma, a silent killer.

For 30 years, Peter* combined his career in real estate with his favorite outdoor activities: bike riding – bicycle and Harley-Davidson – and taking photographs of Sarasota sunrises and sunsets. In time, though, all that sun exposure eventually caught up to the Wisconsin native. After a serious illness, Peter developed an uncomfortable skin condition.

“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with throat cancer,” Peter shares. “After I got through the chemo and radiation and started to get healthy, I noticed what looked like a rash on my skin. There were spots that would come up on my skin and itch. It was annoying and would keep me up at night.”

The spots and itching that came with them continued to get worse. Peter thought it might have been a side effect of the treatment for throat cancer. Seeking answers, Peter went to his family physician. His doctor recommended he visit Alla Gruman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Family Dermatology in Osprey.

“The rash is why I went to Dr. Gruman,” Peter says. “While I was there, she checked my skin, paying particular attention to those parts of my body that got a lot of sun because I’m outdoors a lot. She did a full body exam and discovered melanoma on both shoulders, my neck, nose and forehead.”

According to Dr. Gruman, the four melanomas were asymptomatic and did not bother Peter, but they were in areas of the body he couldn’t see or reach.

Silent Killers

Melanoma is a cancer characterized by uncontrolled growth of the pigment-producing cells in the skin, called melanocytes. Untreated, melanoma can be fatal. However, more than 90 percent can be cured if caught in the early stages.

“The skin cancer screening, especially in Florida, is absolutely mandatory for prevention and early detection,” Dr. Gruman stresses. “I recommend patients get screened once a year – more frequently if they have a significant history of sun exposure or skin cancers.

“Screenings are important because skin cancers like melanoma are silent killers. They don’t cause specific symptoms. Many people have other issues going on with their skin, so they’re not aware that one small mole could present a significant danger to their health.”

Although it is more prevalent in areas of increased sun exposure, melanoma can start in any part of the body. During a skin screening, the doctor examines all of the skin, including between the toes and near the eyes, mouth and nails.

Even though melanoma is not the most common skin cancer, it causes the most skin cancer deaths in the US, an estimated 7,000 alone in 2020, according to the American Cancer Society.

“In a way, Peter’s little itchy rash saved his life,” Dr. Gruman notes.

Neighborly Advice

Peter admires Dr. Gruman’s expertise in discovering the skin cancer and treating it swiftly.

“As soon as Dr. Gruman saw the melanomas, she didn’t wait,” he states. “She treated them within days.

She gave me pills and an ointment to put on them. She got all the spots. She tested two other areas that were questionable and said she’d give me a call. Otherwise, I don’t have to see her for a month.

After his skin cancer experience, Peter has some advice for his Sarasota neighbors.

“If there are any changes in your skin, don’t hesitate to get them checked out.” – Peter

“Be aware of your body, and if there are any changes in your skin, don’t hesitate to get them checked out,” he says. “If you don’t, there could be very serious consequences.”

He learned that important lesson as part of the excellent care provided by Dr. Gruman.

“I would absolutely recommend Family Dermatology and Dr. Gruman,” he asserts. “She’s a very busy person, but she takes her time and is a good listener.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. mkb
*Patient’s name changed at his request.
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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