Catch It Early with FHIR
How Updated Teledermatology Systems Assist with Melanoma Detection
Author: Smile Digital Health
Every day, approximately 9,500 people in the US are diagnosed with skin cancer. The cost of treatment is estimated at $8.1 billion: $4.8 billion for non-melanoma and $3.3 billion for melanoma diagnoses. For 2022, it’s estimated that 7,650 people will die of melanoma; 5,080 men and 2,570 women.
Skin cancers are highly curable if detected early. However, the long wait for results and ensuing issues with clinics still relying on antiquated methods (such as faxes and hospital mail systems) means that, no matter how early someone is tested, there may be a delay in learning their diagnosis.
Such was the case with 39-year-old Melvin O'Shaughnessy. After moving to a beach town in early spring of 2018 with his partner, Dr. Eli Simms, Melvin started spending more time outdoors. During their first summer, he took advantage of the warmer weather by going on a beachside run as soon as the sun came out. After work, he’d tend to the garden or go for a swim until the sun went down.
Melvin loved his new routine. Not being accustomed to living in an area that received a lot of sunshine, he wasn’t used to the routine of putting on sunscreen and wearing a hat when outdoors. This resulted in frequent sunburns, making his skin nearly as red as his hair. Much to Eli’s chagrin, Melvin not only continued to leave his skin uncovered while out in the sun, but also didn’t limit his time outdoors.
Towards the end of August, Eli noticed a mole on Melvin’s lower back. Convinced it was nothing more than an existing freckle, Melvin tried to ignore his partner’s suggestion to see a doctor. Eventually he relented.
Within a week, Melvin saw his general practitioner, who performed a physical examination. During his appointment, Melvin told his doctor about the fact that the area surrounding the mole became increasingly itchy, but he did his best to refrain from scratching. The doctor took note of the mole, focusing on its size, shape and color. He also checked the area around the mole to see if there was puss or blood—there was none. The final part of the examination included feeling Melvin’s lymph nodes for signs of growth and/or inflammation, which the doctor noted some minor swelling.
As a precaution, the general practitioner sent a referral for Melvin to see a dermatologist for further testing.