Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 10/12/2009 [Archive]

Fastest Growing Cancer in the US

Fastest Growing Cancer in the U.S.

By Martha Randolph Carr

Malignant melanoma has been the fastest growing cancer in America for the past 20 years. Currently, its ranked 8th among occurrence of cancers in this country and accounts for nearly two percent of all cancer deaths, according to www.About.com but is moving up the line.

It's just like me to want to be part of the in-crowd but this time I wish I'd been more selective.

As you know, recently I went in to get a mole checked that was a little suspicious and found out it was Stage two, Level four malignant melanoma. At first, I didn't know what any of those things meant but understood somehow that anything other than one was bad and four was really, really bad. Like anyone who finds out they have cancer, I now know exactly what all of those levels and stages mean from treatment to likely outcomes.

I won't leave you hanging and will just tell you that all tests came back saying nothing had spread. That is very good news, particularly with skin cancer.

If it had spread my survival rate would have jumped down to 50% or lower.

However, there's time for more Americans, young and old to do something early about this disease and stop the spread. First we have to stop worshipping the sun at such a close proximity. Sure, this is America and we love to hang out and baby boomers like me did so without regard when we were children. Back in the free-wheeling '60's and '70's we slathered on cocoa butter and laid out on sand, which is like greasing up and then lying on top of a million little mirrors. Some beach-goers even held those silver cardboard trays up to their face for added measure.

The tricky thing though about any kind of cancer is it takes years to develop so all of those really poor decisions we made back then are just now coming due after we've reformed. That means body checks for suspicious moles are in order and right now. Malignant melanoma is also one of the fastest moving cancers. Waiting can have dire consequences.

There are no other symptoms besides the visual until it's gone too far. But the good news is, because this cancer starts on the surface, our skin, we can see it in its earliest stages. Use this weapon and make an appointment.

Skin cancer when caught early is easily dealt with by removal of the tissue. But, unfortunately it is the fastest growing cancer in America that is without any real protocols for chemotherapy or radiation. In other words, catch it early or else. It is the disease that felled Maureen Reagan, Ronald Reagan's daughter in 2001 when she was only 60 years old.

Go to www.tiffanysmelanomafoundation.org and see a quick list of famous people who were recently died from this disease. The site is emphasizing who dies from skin cancer because too many people still assume that it's less deadly than all other forms of cancer. I got a lot of that myself.

The site was set up by the family of Tiffany Weirbach, a beautiful 24 year old woman who died from skin cancer. She apparently loved flying so much she named her dog Cessna and was fond of riding Honda sport bikes. It goes without saying that her loss has left a hole in a lot of lives.

It's another typical trait of ours that we put off tasks that we don't really like. Going early and getting checked over every square inch of your body can save your life. In the meantime, treat the sun with the respect that it deserves. Avoid tanning beds, wear sunscreen even when driving, and don't attempt to tan the skin, especially of your children. It's not worth what might come next. Go get checked everyone.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. Email Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

© 2009 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com.

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