I distinctly remember my dermatologist wanting to remove my signature mole from my back. Before I was aware of what melanoma meant, I saw my mole as a touch of character, something I was born with that nobody else had. After my doctor filled my hands with pamphlets about skin cancer, we reached an agreement that as long as I watched it closely, reporting any alarming signs of growth, I could keep my “beauty spot.” However, not getting it removed came with great responsibility, steering clear of anything that could increase my chances of developing melanoma.
While melanoma only accounts for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, it causes most of skin cancer deaths. Since most people don’t visit the dermatologist monthly, it is important to know other ways to detect early signs of skin cancer in themselves as well as others. It is especially important for estheticians and massage therapists, who are always so close to the clients’ skin and likely see them much more frequently, to help them with early skin cancer detection.
According to a study lead by Shannon M. Campbell, a significant number of massage therapists have already reported examining their client’s skin and recommending at least one client see a dermatologist for a suspicious mole. Annie Powell tells the story of how her massage therapist Scott Raymond warned her of a suspicious mole that turned out to be stage III malignant melanoma. Scott saved my life,” says Powell. “It made me realize that non-medical professionals, like licensed massage therapists (LMT), can and should assist in skin cancer detection.” Powell and Raymond now teach hundreds of massage therapists about skin pathology through an online continued education program.
Powell says it is important for massage therapists to be responsible and aware of their client’s skin, since they are often one of the few people who sees and touches nearly every part of a person’s body. “We can’t do our jobs without going through the skin,” states Powell. “We are responsible for what we put on the skin and muscle, and soft skin manipulation can’t be done without going through the skin.” Powel recommends clients see a board-certified dermatologists at the sight of any suspicious moles.