Spotting skin cancer in the Sunshine State just got a little easier. A new 3D tool is helping one local dermatologist screen for the deadliest form of cancer, pain free.
If you've ever been screened for skin cancer before, you know its a very involved process. Dermatologist Anita Saluja makes sure to check her patients from the tips of their toes all the way up to the tops of their scalps. She even searches through their hair looking for anything suspicious.
Seconds after taking a look a her patient Jayna Davis' back, her eyes widened. "There's a mole here that has irregular pigmentation," said Dr. Saluja, who pointed out that to her trained eye it looks like it could be melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. "This is what we call an ugly duckling mole. It sticks out. There are a few stipples of pigmentation and so this looks irregularly pigmented to me," said Dr. Saluja.
Now, thanks to MelaFind, a new piece of computer generated technology, Dr. Saluja can get a 3-D look what's below the skin's surface. MelaFind is a breakthrough system that is FDA approved to non invasively painlessly evaluate irregular moles for melanoma. It's another tool in our skin exam to give us that little extra bit of information that may reassure us or help us decide if we want to biopsy," said Dr. Saluja.
MIMA Dermatology in Viera just got their MelaFind last month. They're the first practice in Central Florida to be using this technology. With Jayna's mole there are two options. "Biopsy for melanoma will often require stitches. It can leave a visible scar," said Dr. Saluja explaining option number one. Option number two, monitoring it for three months to see if the mole changes. "I'd love for you to monitor it. But I don't think you'll be able to monitor well in this location on your back," said Dr. Saluja. In this situation, both doctor and patient agreed MelaFind could give them both peace of mind.
Dr. Saluja's physician's assistant fired up the MelaFind system, cued up the computer and put a hand held device directly up to the mole. It looks through he skin's surface to get a look at the subsurface layers. "This gives us below the surface of the skin where we can't see it. it gives us a true 3D picture. It has a data base of 10-thousand melanomas its comparing it too," said Dr. Saluja.
MelaFind's analysis in the case we observed, "Looking at this reading of high disorganization. It doesn't mean it's melanoma, just means we need more information," explained Dr. Saluja. "Because of family history, because I am clinically suspicious, I'm going to biopsy," said Dr. Saluja. She'd rather be safe than sorry. Patient Jayna Davis told Dr. Saluja, because of the location of the mole on her back, she never even saw it.
Dr. Saluja gives patients the option to use MelaFind if she finds something that on the surface looks like it could be melanoma. The cost is $150 dollars per visit (no matter how many suspicious moles she uses it on). It is not covered by insurance, however you can use money from your flexible spending account to pay for it.
Using this new type of technology begs the question, is she doing more or less biopsies when she uses MelaFind. "Interestingly you end up doing more biopsies with this. But, a higher percentage of the biopsies turn out to have a-typical cells so you end up finding more melanomas or a-typical cells that could potentially lead to melanoma," said Dr. Saluja.
That means in many cases she is biopsy-ing earlier and sometimes catching the most aggressive, fastest growing form of skin cancer or cancerous cells a little earlier than she might have before she brought this made this new form of technology part of her practice. Studies have shown melanoma is almost 100 percent curable if early and treated properly.