Natasha Singer’s recent article in the New York Times Business section brings attention to the many issues surrounding cancer screening- in this case for melanoma- a deadly skin cancer. Current estimates are that close to 10,000 people will die of melanoma in the US. As an oncologist, we consider melanoma one of the deadliest forms of cancer and early detection is key. With that said, it is important to remember that new technology is only as good as the medical professional operating it. MelaFind seems to be a great addition to the screening program, however I agree with Dr. Newburger on the FDA panel: a dermatologist who relies on MelaFind alone to make a decision on biopsy could miss other forms of skin cancer, such as a basal cell or squamous cell lesion. Like all new technology, rigorous trials should be done to prove its benefit in clinic before purchase as ultimately, these costs will be passed along to patients or their insurers. MelaFind may be a useful tool in the arsenal against cancer – but only in the hands of a trained dermatologist who can evaluate a skin lesion with the experience and skill required to treat appropriately.
Dr. Norleena Gullett is a Radiation Oncologist at Erlanger Cancer Institute in Chattanooga, TN. In addition to her medical expertise, she strives to offer emotional, psychological, and spiritual support in her care for her patients. She prides herself on treating you, the whole person, with the best care possible.