Despite Skin Cancer Awareness Efforts, Good Help Can Be Hard to Find

May 06, 2015

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

PALM DESERT, Calif. – May 6, 2015 – We’ve been conditioned to tell our doctors everything. Nothing can freak them out because they’ve heard and seen it all.

Apparently, that’s not always the case.

Susan Jane Smith needed help for a foot problem, a really bad one.

“My feet had (festering) red bumps all over them, they hurt when I wore shoes,” said Smith, a 72-year-old Palm Springs retiree. “They’d get really bad looking, like I’d been through a meat cleaver or gotten run over by a lawn mower.”

She went to six different doctors but they all turned her away, saying they’d never seen such a condition and couldn’t help. “They acted like I was leper,” said Smith, who said she often left their offices in tears.

She finally found a dermatologist who referred to her Theodore D. Masek, M.D., Board Certified Radiation Oncologist with 21st Century Oncology of California.

When she showed him her feet, he didn’t shrink back in horror. He said, “Ok, what did you do, lay out in the sun all your life?”

And in fact, she had. A child of the sun-worshipping 60s, she remembers sneaking home from work at lunch to slather baby oil on her Irish skin and sunbathe. She was so devoted, she would start working on her “base” tan when snow was still on the ground at her family’s Illinois home. “I had foil on a bed in the backyard and I’d go out and lay for a half hour,” she said.

Smith’s case was a challenging one, Dr. Masek said. She had both basal and squamous cell carcinomas with numerous growths on the tops and sides of her feet, even between her toes.

The American Cancer Society estimates that as many as 2.2 million Americans will be diagnosed with basal and squamous cell skin cancers this year, a number that has been increasing. 

“Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of skin cancers,” Dr. Masek said, “but it’s important that they be treated because while rare, these cancers can spread into nearby bone or other tissues beneath the skin.”

Dr. Masek treated Smith with External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT), which delivers radiation directly at the tumors from several angles, and Brachytherapy, which is the placement of a radioactive source in an applicator in direct contact with the cancer.

Treatments lasted several months, with breaks for Smith to have the growths removed and heal, followed by more radiation.

Smith said she cried the last time she left the 21st Century Oncology office – but this time because of how well she was treated. “The people were so nice there,” she said. “It was like family.

And the woman who not so long ago found it too painful to wear shoes now likes to shop. She recently bought four pairs of new shoes to celebrate.

For more information about our services, visit www.21cOncologyPalmDesert.com or call (760) 200-8777.

About 21st Century Oncology:

21st Century Oncology is the largest global, physician led provider of Integrated Cancer Care services. The company offers a comprehensive range of cancer treatment services, focused on delivering academic quality, cost-effective patient care in personal and convenient settings. As of December 31, 2014, the company operated 181 treatment centers, including 145 centers located in 17 states. The company also operates 36 centers located in six countries in Latin America. The company holds market-leading positions in most of its domestic local markets and abroad.

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