ASDS member’s free skin cancer screenings get results
In real estate, the axiom is “location, location, location.” ASDS member Burt Steffes, MD, knows that adage also applies to access to preventive screenings for dangerous skin lesions.
Yet another patient with an advanced skin cancer tumor had come to his Fond du Lac, Wis., office for help. Dr. Steffes observed that this patient – and others with advanced tumors – lived in remote, rural areas. With little or no access to local dermatology services, suspicious legions were being left untreated to evolve into complex cancers that required more detailed and extensive treatments.
Preventive medical care such as regular skin cancer screenings could have made a difference. But many patients lived at least an hour’s drive away from the nearest dermatologist.
Seeing an opportunity to help, Dr. Steffes began an initiative through the ASDS Future Leaders Network to offer free screenings in underserved areas. During three events over the course of a year, 10 percent of those screened were found to have lesions suspicious for skin cancer.
“I felt that by offering skin cancer screenings in underserved rural areas, we would be able to detect skin cancers at an early stage and significantly decrease morbidity,” Dr. Steffes said.
Dr. Steffes sought dermatologists and local community members to volunteer, and eventually set up three large weekend screenings. The ASDS/Neutrogena Choose Skin Health program provided free screening forms and materials.
“Any patient with a suspicious growth was given a list of the closest dermatologists as well as local physicians who could perform biopsies. Those patients also received a letter within the following few weeks reminding them to seek care,” Dr. Steffes said.
Two screenings have continued annually, and he hopes to inspire other doctors to provide similar screenings.
“There’s a huge need for skin cancer screenings in many areas, both rural and urban,” Dr. Steffes said. “And at the same time, doctors get the chance to give back to communities that don’t have access to dermatology services.”