Melanoma Can’t Wait
Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey Scott

Routine checks can detect dangerous skin cancer in early, curable stage.

Jeffrey Scott has been around boats since he was a kid. His parents always owned boats, and he has done the same as an adult. It was only natural then that Jeffrey establish himself in a career that involved seafaring vessels.

“I’ve been in the marine business my entire life,” Jeffrey shares. “I currently work full time in sales for a company that sells teak decks for yachts and ships. I’ve worked there for 23 years. Mine is primarily a desk job, but I do occasionally go out on the production floor to check on my projects.

“In the past, I ran the products division, where we develop and sell marine products. I also ran the commercial division, where we work with cruise ships and some of the largest yachts in the world, including Rising Sun, which is owned by a major record and movie producer. We work all over the world, but I don’t travel much anymore.”

Growing up with access to a boat enabled Jeffrey to participate in boundless sun-soaked activities. Unfortunately, Jeffrey’s time in the sun has resulted in some negative consequences.

“Every day when I got home from school, my best friend and I would go water-skiing,” Jeffrey recounts. “Back then we didn’t know anything about the dangers of sun exposure, so we didn’t bother with sun protection. I have a light complexion and my hair is light and very fine, so my skin and scalp are very susceptible to sunburn. That’s how my skin cancer problems began.”

Jeffrey, 64, visited his first dermatologist in the late 1980s. Over the years, he’s had multiple basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas removed. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are cancers on the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin. Ultimately, Jeffrey discovered Family Dermatology, the practice of Alla Gruman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist.

At Family Dermatology, Jeffrey’s routine care is managed by Cassandra Patula, PA-C, a certified physician assistant. In 2018, Cassandra spotted a suspicious area on Jeffrey’s shoulder. She took a sample of cells from the area for testing, called a biopsy. The biopsy revealed a melanoma in its earliest stage.

A Silent Killer

Melanoma is a serious skin cancer that begins in the pigment-producing cells of the epidermis called melanocytes. It’s less common than basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas but is more dangerous, even deadly, because it can rapidly spread to other areas of the body if not treated early. 

“It does not hurt or cause significant symptoms,” Dr. Gruman asserts. “It is often only diagnosed by appearance followed by a biopsy. If patients don’t visit a certified dermatologist for routine skin checks, they are more likely to miss melanoma. And the advantage of catching melanoma early is an improved prognosis.”

A combination of genetic and environmental factors can lead to the development of melanoma. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is a major risk factor, but some individuals have a genetic predisposition for the condition.

“People who have a lighter skin tone, blue or green eyes, or blond or red hair are more prone to developing melanoma,” Cassandra reveals. “Melanoma can arise in preexisting moles or develop suddenly on its own as a new lesion.”

“Melanoma can be a silent killer,” Dr. Gruman adds. 

Melanoma can be diagnosed following a biopsy. However, some people avoid going to the dermatologist because they don’t like undergoing traditional biopsies, which are invasive procedures. However, a noninvasive alternative is now available.

“The technology is called a sticker biopsy patch,” Cassandra reveals. “It is an adhesive sticker test that may be appropriate for certain lesions to diagnose early changing moles and early melanoma. It is an effective alternative for those who are afraid of going to a dermatologist for a traditional biopsy.” 

Excision Effectiveness

Jeffrey’s not afraid to visit Family Dermatology. He’s highly impressed with its staff and especially Cassandra, who says that Jeffrery was lucky he visited the practice when he did.

“Because we caught the cancer very early, Mr. Scott was able to undergo a surgical excision as his only treatment,” she details. “Surgical excision is about 99 percent effective at curing melanoma in its early stages.” 

During a surgical excision, the patient remains awake. Dr. Gruman uses local anesthesia to numb the target area, then extracts the cancer and the margins of tissue surrounding it. The dermatologist stitches the operative area closed, placing sutures on the inside and outside of the wound. The stitches are removed two weeks later.

“Surgical excision, which is recommended for melanoma in situ, is about 99 percent effective at curing melanoma in its very early stages,” Cassandra discloses.

Jeffrey now goes to Family Dermatology quarterly for routine skin checks, where moles are examined for changes. 

“Four or five months after my melanoma procedure, Cassandra found another very small melanoma on my neck,” Jeffrey reports. “Dr. Gruman did the same procedure where she cut it out.”

Cassandra says if Jeffrey continues to be melanoma free for two more years, his skin-check visits may be cut back to twice per year. 

“Cassandra is so thorough, and she really has an eye for spotting cancers,” Jeffrey raves. “I always ask for her because she’s my favorite practitioner. I love her way with patients. She makes me feel very comfortable, very at ease, and I trust her. She’s a real asset to the practice and the patients.

“Dr. Gruman is awesome as well. I usually see her for procedures and when I need something over and above what Cassandra can do. They work together.

“I absolutely recommend Family Dermatology. They’re the nicest people and excellent doctors. I drive 40 minutes to get there because I don’t want to go anywhere else. I don’t know that I would get the same feeling of trust and comfort at another dermatology practice, so I take the time and drive there because that’s where I want to go.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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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