'Accidental Find' of Melanoma Saves Park Forest Woman

You might say that being in the right place at the right time saved Juli Vanderbilt's life. Especially when the right place is the office of a vigilant, highly skilled general surgeon.

In August 2009, she accompanied a relative to an appointment with surgeon Michael Romberg, M.D. "We were just finishing up," Juli explains.

"I had shorter sleeves on, and Dr. Romberg noticed a spot on my arm. He said I should get it checked out."

As it turned out, the "accidental finding" by Dr. Romberg was a godsend.

The oval-shaped dark spot on her left wrist, often obscured by her wristwatch, was a malignant melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer.

"My daughter never liked the looks of it," she said. "I really don't know how long I had it. It wasn't painful; it wasn't raised. It was just a dark spot about a half-inch wide."

Understanding Skin Cancer

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. Sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, and people with fair skin and light eyes are most susceptible. However, skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including darker complexions. Indoor tanning is especially risky.

"Fortunately, most skin cancers can be detected in their early stages since skin tumors are more visible than tumors of the internal organs," Dr. Romberg explained.

To her relief, the aggressive malignancy was caught before it had spread. Juli had the skin cancer removed, and no additional treatment was needed. "I am forever grateful to Dr. Romberg for noticing it that day in his office," she added.

"Every individual should check his or her skin carefully for any changes," Dr. Romberg advised. "Early detection is the key for successful treatment."

Though she never tanned, Juli admits she never wore sunscreen while biking or gardening. Now she applies 50 SPF sunscreen every time she heads outdoors.

"Because the cancer was caught early, Juli's prognosis should be great," Dr. Romberg added.

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