CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) – What do first daughter Maureen Reagan, actor Burgess Meredith and the legendary Bob Marley all have in common? They all become victims of the most deadly form of skin cancer -- Melanoma.
A man from Carolina Beach was diagnosed with an advanced stage of Melanoma four years ago, and although not given a huge chance to live even one year after diagnosis, he is still around and letting people know of his story and the need to be checked regularly by a dermatologist.
He looks healthy today, but four years ago, Steve Morgan was only given a slim chance of living much longer.
A lesion started to grow quickly on his shoulder, but he had not gone to a doctor because he had no health insurance. A friend, however, encouraged him to get it checked out at a free skin cancer screening that was being sponsored by WECT and Doctor Jonathan Crane at Atlantic Dermatology.
"This was on a Friday, I guess and I was the last person patient in kind of an interesting story," said Morgan. "One of the nurses there saw it and jumped back when she saw it because it was not a pretty looking thing."
A biopsy confirmed that the lesion had turned into Stage Four Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, so deadly that stage four patients are given a 10-15 percent chance of living five years after diagnosis.
"But I guess that is where you still go ahead, you trust, you hope for the best, you pray for the best result and the miracles do happen, and they happen on a regular basis," said Dermatologist Doctor Jonathan Crane.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common form of the disease, and like other forms of cancer, early detection is the key for treatment and survival of skin cancer.
Armed with time, some melanoma cancer cells can escape the tumor and travel thru the blood stream to other parts of the body, like lymph nodes.
Steve underwent surgery for removal of the cancerous tumor. He still has to be checked out on a regular basis because he has a few spots of non-cancerous skin cancer being treated. And with some 48,000 people dying annually from melanoma, Steve knows he is one of the very lucky ones.
"The New Year is starting and I look forward to not spending much time in the sun, maybe," said Morgan. "But I would like to say this, what a blessing, what a blessing to live in a community like Wilmington, and be able to be the beneficiary of so many good graces."
Crane said people should make skin cancer screenings a priority.
"If something is found, then you work with the physician and they will come up with a game plan for you," said Crane. "I would be shocked if there is anyone here in Wilmington, any physician here in Wilmington that is not going to find some way to make it work out for the patient."
For more information, you can call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer information service toll-free at 1-800-4-cancer (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. A trained cancer information specialist is available to answer your questions.