Best way to beat melanoma
On May 3, when Dr. Patricia Collins heard those words, she knew it was serious.
“I was in a state of shock,” she says. “I have seen just how untreatable melanoma can be.”
Small change, big difference
A few days earlier, Dr. Collins visited Dr. Rajendra Shah, plastic surgeon at Christ Medical Center, to check a mole on her back, because her husband had noticed a change in appearance.
“As soon as Dr. Shah looked at it, he said that it needed to be removed immediately,” she says.
A week later, when Dr. Collins returned to Dr. Shah’s office for the results of her biopsy, he was clearly agitated.
“I knew something was up,” she says. “And, sure enough, it was melanoma.”
Dr. Shah outlined the treatment and the pair discussed who should perform the surgery.
“Everyone said that it had to be Dr. Adam Riker, because melanoma is his personal area of study,” Dr. Collins says.
Dr. Adam Riker, medical director of the Cancer Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center and a melanoma expert, leads a multidisciplinary team of specialists—including surgical, medical and radiation oncologists and research nurses—who manage all aspects of a melanoma patient’s care.
“Dr. Riker couldn’t have been kinder,” Dr. Collins reports. “Not only is he knowledgeable, he explains the situation very clearly and doesn’t sugarcoat anything.”
Because melanoma can quickly spread to the lymph nodes, a sentinel lymph node biopsy was scheduled for two days later.
“I had very little pain and was able to leave quickly,” Dr. Collins says. “Then, the waiting game began.”
Because Dr. Collins was experiencing some swelling the day after the surgery, she stopped at Dr. Riker’s office ahead of her scheduled follow-up. That’s when she heard the good news: The biopsy was negative; the cancer had not spread to the lymph node.
“I can’t tell you the joy I felt,” she says. “There were hugs and thanks all around.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.