Karen Jokinen didn’t think much of it when she noticed a smudge-like spot on the back of her heel. And since she couldn’t see it without using a mirror, it nearly slipped her mind entirely.
When Jokinen finally mentioned it to her doctor, who examined the mark, the physician wasn’t overly concerned, either. Still, to be sure, she arranged for Jokinen to see a specialist.
A good thing, too. As it turned out, Jokinen was among the thousands of Canadians (an estimated 8,000 in 2020) who are diagnosed with melanoma each year.
Rates of this most dangerous form of skin cancer are on the rise. And, as with other types of cancer, risk increases with age.
Fortunately, if detected early, the prognosis is typically very good.
Potential warning signs include an ‘ugly duckling’ mole that looks different from others.
My heartfelt thanks to the interviewees who so kindly shared their time and expertise:
- Annette Cyr, founder and chair of the board of the Melanoma Network of Canada.
- Dr. Valerie Francescutti, an associate professor of surgical oncology and general surgery in McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and a surgical oncologist at Hamilton Health Sciences Centre’s Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, Ont.
- Karen Jokinen
- Dr. Elaine McWhirter, a staff medical oncologist at the Hamilton Health Sciences Centre’s Juravinski Cancer Centre, and an associate professor of oncology in McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ont.
- Dr. Stephen Robbins, PhD, scientific director of the CIHR Institute for Cancer Research.
- Dr. Irina Turchin, a dermatologist at the Brunswick Medical Centre in Fredericton, NB; associate professor at both Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS, and Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s NL; and a spokesperson for the Canadian Dermatology Association.