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As summer returns to normalcy, local experts stress importance of skin cancer screenings



AUGUSTA, Ga. – The pandemic seemed to freeze life for so many of us no travel, no seeing our family. But it also kept a lot of people from going to the doctor.

Now as the summer gets back to normal dermatologists say they’re seeing more people who put appointments on hold.

One local man says if he waited any longer his life could have been a much different story. Bill Stewart thinks differently now about advice his grandmother gave him years ago.

“My grandmother growing up she use to tell us all the time put on a long sleeve shirt in the summertime and wear and hat and you don’t think nothing about it,” said Stewart.

Bill is 48. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with stage one melanoma cancer.

“All kinds of things run through your head as far as what could happen, not being able to see your family again, if it would have gotten to my lymph nodes it’s one of the fastest spreading cancers,” he said.

Stewart’s wife is a nurse. She noticed a mole behind his ear that started to look unusual. So she pushed him to get it checked.

“Definitely discolored and the margins were definitely irregular, so he has a lot of mole and discolored areas but that one really stood out,” said Melissa Stewart, Bill’s wife.

And it’s a good thing she did.

“A little part of his skin had been removed, that was the shaved biopsy. They did that the same day of his initial appointment and we waited for three days, and it came back that it was melanoma,” she said.

Savanna Perry is a physician’s assistant at Evans Dermatology. She says they are seeing more people schedule skin screening appointments as things start getting back to normal.

“I think people forget about their skin. It’s easy to focus on other areas of health and kind of let your skin fall on the back burner, but it is very important and sometimes if there are areas you don’t see like your back you may not think about it,” she said.

The number one cause of skin cancer is sun exposure. However other things like tanning beds can cause it too. But with COVID those rescheduled checkups are more important than ever.

“We are seeing more patients coming back in, getting their skin checked out and feeling more comfortable going back to doctor’s offices. We are definitely seeing patient numbers going back but we recommend people getting their skin checked out at least once a year,” she said.

For Bill, this was a life-changing lesson.

“I can’t express enough to go get checked even if you are to go to a doctors cared of the results. In my opinion, it is better to have it done now instead of later and it’s gotten too far,” he said.

Perry said it’s good to monitor your skin and look for moles that do not look like other ones you may have. That could be a sign to get checked.