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Annual skin checks should allow diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer before it becomes life threatening Contact Now

Dermatologist ignores suspicious spot on skin, man is later diagnosed with malignant melanoma

Annual skin checks should allow diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer before it becomes life threatening

Based on my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I think it’s a good idea for every adult to have an established relationship with a dermatologist.

Dermatologists are doctors with specialized training for diagnosing and treating skin conditions. When you see the same dermatologist for a skin check each year, it allows the dermatologist to establish a skin safety baseline for you, which makes it possible to identify new or changing areas on your skin.

Sun exposure as a young person can lead to serious skin conditions as an adult. One of these conditions is melanoma, an aggressive type of cancer that dermatologists look out for. When it spreads to other parts of the body, it’s called malignant melanoma.

Melanoma accounts for 4-5% of all new cancer cases. The average age when patients are diagnosed with melanoma is 57 years old. This type of cancer is well-known to afflict younger and middle-aged patients.

What to look for in melanoma

Dermatologists use the shortcut ABCDE to remember what to look for when examining existing or new spots or moles for signs of melanoma:

A for Asymmetry

B for Irregular border

C for Color variations, especially red, white, and blue tones in a brown or black lesion

D for Diameter greater than 6 mm

E for Elevated surface

If you notice any of these signs, experts recommend seeing a dermatologist quickly for evaluation.

Melanoma misdiagnosis and delayed treatment

Someone recently contacted Painter Law Firm for help in dermatology care that went wrong. To protect his privacy, we’ll call this person Bill.

Bill had gone to the same dermatologist for annual skin checks for over 10 years. He routinely asked the doctor about different spots on his skin that concerned him. One of those spots was on his knee. Over the years, the dermatologist told Bill that it was nothing and not to worry about it.

Bill eventually switched to another skin doctor. The new dermatologist did a full body skin examination and asked about the spot on Bill’s knee that had been an area of concern. The new dermatologist took a biopsy and sent it off to a pathologist for analysis.

A biopsy is a tissue sample that the dermatologist takes of a mole or suspicious area of the skin. It’s important for the doctor to cut or excise a large and deep enough sample to allow the pathologist to be able to view it under a microscope. To do a proper analysis, a pathologist needs to have a full-thickness segment of skin that’s also wide enough to capture all the margins of the area. If the sample isn’t large enough, the pathologist can’t rule out melanoma.

The pathology report came back with shocking and terrible news. The spot on Bill’s knee was malignant melanoma. He’s now facing surgery and more tests to see how far the cancer spread. Sadly, if the first dermatologist had given proper attention to this spot, it’s likely that the melanoma would have been surgically removed before it became a potentially life-threatening problem.

If you’ve been misdiagnosed or had delayed treatment because of poor dermatologist care, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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