May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and Dr. Ben Wiese is urging people to take care of their skin. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Don’t let skincare take a back seat amid pandemic: Okanagan skin cancer doctor

Look for warning signs to prevent melanoma, according to Dr. Wiese

With all the concerns around COVID-19, skincare might take a back seat.

But a Kelowna skin cancer doctor is urging people not to let that happen.

Dr. Ben Wiese with the Kelowna Skin Cancer Clinic suggests people take a good look at their mole and other marks on their skin, especially as Skin Cancer Awareness Month comes.

“With COVID-19, we’ve realized that if you can prevent it, you can heal and you won’t get ill. With skin cancer, to a certain degree, it’s like that: if you can prevent or diagnose early on, your prognosis is excellent,” he said.

“That’s why it’s important to watch out for something new or something change because the sooner we make that diagnosis, the better the prognosis.”

Wiese said there’s an easy trick to remember what to look out for: A, B, C, D, E.

  • “A is for asymmetry. This is where you divide the lesion that you’re looking at either horizontally or vertically to compare the two sides. If they look different, that’s not a good sign.
  • “B is for border. If the border (of the mole) is irregularly edged, that’s a warning sign
  • “C is for colour. This is where you see different types of colours: reds, browns, blacks, greys, a combination of colours… a mole has to be uniformly coloured.
  • “D is for diameter. With melanoma, it’s a lesion that’s always growing. If it’s bigger than the back of a pencil eraser, this is where we really want to pick it up.
  • “E is for evolution. This is a changing lesion. If a lesion is bleeding, itching and you see changes, we want to pick up those lesions as soon as possible because that’s how we save lives.”

Wiese said the most important thing is to have respect for the largest organ on our bodies.

“Be mindful of your skin … seek the shade, wear protective clothing, wear sunscreen every day,” he said.

One of Wiese’s patients, Wayne Angman, first came to the clinic in July 2019. Wiese said when he saw Angman, the mole on the man’s back was diagnosed as a case of malignant melanoma. He performed an initial surgery at the clinic, but Angman had to go to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital to have other parts of the tumour removed.

“When Dr. Wiese saw it, he didn’t even let me leave the clinic. He removed the mole on the spot,” he said.

“Fortunately, no cancer cells were found in the adjacent lymph nodes so to a degree I had dodged a bullet.”

For more information on the work Dr. Wiese and his team do, visit the Kelowna Skin Cancer Clinic website. Dr. Wiese has also published his top three skin protection recommendations, which can be found through this link.

For more information on melanoma, visit the Melanoma Network of Canada or the Save Your Skin Foundation.

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Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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