Melanoma during pregnancy common, but treatable | Fox News

  • (image courtesy subject)

  • Scaggs holding her newborn daughter (Carolyn Noble)

Caitlyn Scaggs was 26 weeks pregnant with her first child when she asked her husband for a massage to alleviate her back pain.

I remember him saying, That spot on your back doesnt look right, Scaggs, who lives in Christianburg, Va., said.

Their OB-GYN had already told them to monitor the mole, but Scaggs, then 24, didnt mention it at her next visit. Then, her husband went with her and asked the doctor to look at it. Her doctor agreed the mole should be removed and sent her to a dermatologist, who removed and biopsied the growth.

I was mind blown that anything could be wrong with me or my skin, Scaggs said, noting that she lived a healthy lifestyle.

When her doctor called with the results, panic set in.

When he said the word melanoma, the floor dropped out. The idea that something is wrong with me that could hurt [my daughter] or somethings wrong with me that could impact her having a mommy one day, it was unbearable, she recalled.

The good news was that the melanoma, which was .74mm in depth, was an early stage cancer and her pathology looked promising. The next day, Scaggs met with her surgeon and within a week she had wide excision surgery to remove the melanoma.

Although she doesnt have a family history of skin cancer, Scaggs thinks her melanoma diagnosis was likely a result of a history of sitting out in the sun and using tanning beds before special events.

I never burned and I thought because I wasnt burning, my skin was OK and thats not true, she said.

About 1/3 of melanoma cases are in young women
Having melanoma diagnosed during pregnancy is not a rare event, said Dr. Lynn Schuchter, chief of the division of hematology oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania Medicine in Berwyn and Philadelphia.  

In fact, almost one-third of melanoma cases are diagnosed in women during their childbearing years, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Whats more, women diagnosed with melanoma during or shortly after pregnancy are significantly more likely to have tumors spread to other organs and tissues, and are also much more likely to have the cancer recur after treatment, a recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found.

The five-year survival rate for early stage melanoma is 98 percent, but for stage III cancer, its 78 percent.

Advanced stage melanoma is also one of the few types of cancer that can cross the placenta, although its rare, said Dr. Keith LeBlanc Jr., a dermatologist and a Mohs surgeon in the New Orleans area. In fact, between 1966 and 2022, there were only 87 such cases, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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