Diagnosis: Skin Cancer
When Athletic Director Bill Martin was diagnosed with melanoma a few years ago, it occurred to him that many of his staff members also spend a lot of time in the sun, which is one of the highest risk factors for the disease. And when, at Martin’s request, Timothy M. Johnson, M.D., head of the U-M skin cancer program, performed screenings for the Athletic Department, he found some form of skin cancer or pre-cancerous lesions in nearly two dozen staff members.
Head hockey coach Red Berenson and former head football coach Lloyd Carr, now associate athletic director, also revealed recently that they were diagnosed and treated for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The three Michigan sports leaders are doing well — as are members of the Athletic Department staff — and screenings have continued; the third was held this summer. The most common type of cancer in the U.S., skin cancer is highly curable when caught early and treated properly. For Berenson, Carr and Martin, it wasn’t just proximity that led them to the health system located in their own backyard for treatment; the U-M is a world leader in skin cancer diagnosis, treatment and research.
Carr has become an advocate after his diagnosis and treatment. “Do something about it,” he said during a recent television interview. “Don’t wait and hope that it goes away, because it’s not going away.”
Melanoma is the most frequent type of cancer diagnosed and treated at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, which has the largest multidisciplinary melanoma program in the country and treats more skin cancer patients than nearly any other program. The U-M Health System also is leading the effort to find more effective treatments through an extensive, innovative and far-reaching program of skin cancer research.
Most skin cancers are non-melanoma of two primary types: basal cell carcinoma — slow-growing with a small likelihood of spreading to other parts of the body and accounting for 75 percent of all skin cancers; and squamous cell carcinoma — faster growing and potentially more invasive. A third type, Merkel cell carcinoma, is rare, but very deadly. The U-M program achieves a cure rate of approximately 90 percent to 99 percent for non-melanomas, even if other treatments have failed.
More than just high positive outcomes mark Michigan’s multidisciplinary skin cancer program as one of the best in the nation. One phone call results in coordination of all the collaborative care the patient will require, across several specialties with prompt access and efficient scheduling to eliminate wait times.
Bill Martin and his staff certainly appreciate the work of Tim Johnson and the skin cancer program. Nationwide, athletics organizations are doing more to help raise awareness about skin cancer and its prevention.
“I’m so thankful to Bill that he had this screening,” says Berenson, “because had he not had it, I probably would not have gone in. Had I not gone in, I would have been in serious trouble.”