Melanoma – Not just a spot, but cancer of the largest organ

Amy Henderson has had numerous procedures to remove melanoma – her most recent procedure was on her leg.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

She’s had four procedures to remove melanoma – two on her face – forehead and right temple – and one on her right arm. On a recent weekday afternoon, Amy Henderson was flat on a table in the outpatient clinic of IU Health dermatology for her fourth procedure.

Dr. Ally-Khan Somani was removing a spot from Henderson’s left thigh.

“I’m a red head and ghostly white so the sun’s not always my friend,” said Henderson. “ When I was a kid we grew up on a lake boating and skiing and I didn’t wear sunscreen. That changed as an adult I’ve worn sunscreen since I was in my 20s.” Thompson is now 37 and some of the effects of her childhood are only now manifesting into the cancerous spots.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. If it is allowed to grow, it can spread quickly to other parts of the body. When found early it is treatable. The AAD encourages people to learn the warning signs, look for warning signs on the skin, and see a dermatologist at the earliest hint of unusual skin growth or marks. The Cancer Center at IU Health West Hospital will offer free skin cancer screenings from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12. Call 317-217-3800 to schedule a screening.

During Henderson’s recent in-office procedure, Dr. Somani removed the spot on Henderson’s leg and then a small margin of skin around it.

“Normal sutures come out in one to two weeks and by six weeks the wound is 50-60 percent healed,” said Dr. Somani. “After six weeks she can resume normal activity and in about a year it will be completely healed. The face heals faster than the rest of the body.”

Dr. Somani is a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon. Mohs surgery is a micrographic procedure to remove skin cancer, layer by layer. The surgery is the only treatment that allows doctors to evaluate the skin cancer cells during the procedure and a surgery that results in a high cure rate for patients. Somani has seen many types of skin cancer and has learned to work with tumors in challenging locations – including the nose. He also has experience in complex wound reconstruction.

Henderson was recommended to Dr. Somani by her dermatologist. Her first procedure was in November of 2018 when she discovered what she describes as a “strange growth on her right arm.” The spot was itchy and was growing. She makes regular visits to her dermatologist every three months.

“I got lucky – my melanoma hadn’t metastasized to my lymph nodes,” said Henderson who is married to Eric Henderson. They have a daughter Ady. “I am diligent when it comes to avoiding the sun. I try to keep Ady out of direct sun light as much as possible and if we are in sun she wears shirts and hats, and is coated in sunscreen.”