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Melanoma Testing During the COVID Pandemic

Guest blog post by Micole Tuchman, MD. Dr. Tuchman is a practicing board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Manhattan as well as a voluntary attending at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. After graduating from Yale, she received her MD from New York Medical College and completed a dermatology research fellowship at St Luke’s Roosevelt Beth Israel. She received her training in Dermatology from New York Medical College. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, four children and goldendoodle.

Presented by Melanoma Awareness Month partner:

My patient, Mrs. G, is a 72-year-old Caucasian woman who currently lives alone and is sheltering in place in Manhattan. Because of the extraordinary circumstances, she was being extremely careful to minimize her exposure to COVID-19 by staying at home as much as possible and only venturing out once a week to buy groceries.

Three weeks ago, she reached out to my office after receiving an email from us regarding the new PLA test we were offering. During our initial telemed conference, she showed me a new lesion on her arm that appeared irregular in color and which she maintained had only been there for less than a month. I told her that I needed her to come into the office for a biopsy as my suspicion was high that this could be a melanoma, but that I wasn’t sure. She was very apprehensive about coming into the office at that time and insisted that she would come after the summer.  I worried about leaving the lesion for the duration of the summer, and so I sent her a DermTech PLA test which she received the next day. I then easily guided her through the process of applying it herself. Once completed, the test was then picked up by FedEx and returned to DermTech for further analysis.

A few days later I received notification from DermTech that Mrs. G had tested positive for both markers, yielding a 93 percent chance of the lesion being a melanoma. As my office was still closed for surgeries, I referred her to a colleague of mine who was open and was immediately able to fit her in and excised the lesion.

By pathology, the lesion proved to be a melanoma in situ with clean margins. Once removed, the risk of this now evolving into anything more concerning or metastasizing is essentially zero. Mrs. G and I were both thrilled that she had not put off calling the office for that first visit and furthermore that we were able to diagnose the lesion in such a timely manner, despite the circumstances and her hesitation in coming into the office. Mrs. G will follow up for more frequent full skin checks going forward, but she is melanoma free and I feel so grateful that we were able to diagnose and treat her melanoma as quickly as we could and did not delay diagnosis until she felt more comfortable coming into the office.

Advances in melanoma diagnosis and treatment mean better outcomes for more patients. Because of your support, the MRF is proud to lead a broad scientific agenda and support the breakthrough research that will lead to improved treatments and, one day, a cure.