Treating Melanoma: The Importance of Early Detection

July 26, 2017
Sondra Diel
David W. Shepherd, MD

“You never think it could happen to you,” says Sondra Diel, of her unexpected skin cancer diagnosis. Like many people, she used to enjoy tanning, and she didn’t pay much attention to a mole she had on her leg, except when her family “nudged” her to have it looked at. Her daughter, Kayla, works as a nail technician in her salon and would remind her mom about it when she was giving her a pedicure.

Diel then noticed that the mole started to change in shape and color. She showed it to a friend who works for St. Mary’s Physician Associates, and her friend immediately referred her to David W. Shepherd, MD, a surgeon on staff at St. Mary’s.

Upon examination, Dr. Shepherd was concerned by the mole’s irregular borders, and he helped set up an appointment to have it removed days later in an outpatient procedure. Testing revealed that it was melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body if it is not diagnosed early. “I burst into tears,” says Diel, thinking about her family and all the milestones yet to come. Dr. Shepherd helped her understand her diagnosis and how they would take care of it. “If melanoma is caught in the early stages, it is treatable,” he says.

Anxious to get it taken care of, Diel had a second surgery, followed by more testing including a CT scan and PET scan to determine the next steps. She is now seen regularly by a dermatologist and medical oncologist “to keep an eye on it,” she notes.

“I was very lucky,” says Diel, grateful to her friend for referring her to Dr. Shepherd and her family, who supported her every step of the way. She notes that it was an emotional experience, and the team at St. Mary’s reassured her throughout the process. “They were amazing, all of them,” she says.

Self skin checks and exams by your doctor can help find cancers earlier, when they are easier to treat. To find a doctor for yourself or your family, contact our free physician referral service by calling Direct Doctors Plus® at 580-249-3741.

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