TUCSON, Ariz.(KGUN) — May is melanoma awareness month and Banner University Medical Center is using specialized therapies to save lives.
Wayne Griffith is living his life as melanoma skin cancer survivor, we first met him last year during our "Minding Melanoma" series and today he’s still going strong. After getting state of the art immuno-therapy and a specialized melanoma vaccine that was specifically designed for his case.
"I was able to do the clinical trials because other people before me did it. Since that time, I’ve stopped treatments. I've been doing great, and I’ve been blessed with a good outcome,” Griffith said.
Having a need for that life-saving treatment is exactly why Banner University Medical Center Dermatologist Dr. Mohammad Fazel says we should all pay close attention to our skin. Don’t wait if you see an unusual change in your skin, get it checked out as soon as possible.
“We have pre-cancerous cells that show up in our body regularly throughout the year and our body fights them with our own immune system and you never see them. Melanoma and other cancers escape that and over time can grow and get out of control,” Fazel said.
New innovations in treatment have made surviving late-stage melanoma a reality for patients.
"Even in the last decade I think we made leaps and bounds of advancements to be able to help our patients. Patients prior to that time we didn’t have much to offer to other than clinical trials with questionable efficacy. We have better treatments now the main type of treatment right now is immunotherapies,” Fazel said.
According to the American Cancer Society in 2022 more than 3,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer will be diagnosed in Arizona.
“I have regular skin checks every six months. I see my oncologist every six months when I have scans,” Griffith said.
Dr. Fazel says you should use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 and reapply depending on your activity. It's also a good idea to invest in clothing with ultraviolet protection built in.
"It’s a small thing that can make a big difference and for some patients can be lifesaving,” Fazel said.
Shawndrea Thomas is an anchor and investigative reporter for KGUN 9. Shawndrea is living her dream as a journalist who’s passionate about making a difference. Share your story ideas and important issues with Shawndrea by emailing email@example.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.