Skin cancer discovered through quality primary care

James Ott, M.D., examines his patient, Larry Ishman, as Madalen Ishman looks on. Larry was recently diagnosed with melanoma and is receiving treatment at Winneshiek Medical Center Decorah Clinic.

56 years ago, Larry Ishman married his high school sweetheart, Madalen. For many years, he worked for bread delivery companies while the couple raised their children. Near retirement, they returned to Larry’s picturesque hometown of Eldorado, Iowa.

This past winter, Madalen began monitoring a mole on Larry’s shoulder that was growing in size and developing a thin, red outline. As the mole continued to change, she encouraged Larry to go to the doctor, and they made an appointment with primary care physician Scott Bohner, D.O., at Winneshiek Medical Center Decorah Clinic.

Dr. Bohner performed a biopsy, and referred Larry to his colleague, skin specialist James Ott, M.D., also a Mayo Clinic Health System doctor at Winneshiek Medical Center. “Larry then decided he didn’t want to keep his second appointment, so I canceled it against my better judgment,” says Madalen.

The care team at Winneshiek Medical Center was soon on the phone with the Ishmans. “They had received the results of Larry’s biopsy and knew he needed more care,” says Madalen. “The nurse who called us said Larry needed to come back in.”

Larry was diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.   Dr. Ott says, “Melanomas can develop anywhere on your body, but are most often found on areas that have had sun exposure like your back, face, arms and legs.” Larry’s melanoma followed the traditional symptoms. “People generally come in when a mole has changed, just like Larry did, but melanoma doesn’t have to be a mole. It can also appear as a new pigmented or an unusual-looking growth on the skin, anywhere on the body,” says Dr. Ott.

Larry continues to receive follow-up treatment to make sure the melanoma is completely removed and has not spread to his lymph nodes or other areas of his body. He says, “They have been doing a real good job. They make all my appointments on the same day so we can get everything taken care of at the same time.”

Speaking to others who may have suspicious moles or skin concerns, Larry advises, “Go to the hospital to get it checked out. Don’t wait.” Madalen adds, “Be persistent if your loved one resists. Larry’s cancer is life-threatening and we are thankful for the care from Dr. Ott and Dr. Bohner at Winneshiek Medical Center.

A Few Facts about Skin Cancer (from the American Academy of Dermatology)

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.
  • Before age 50, melanoma incidence rates are higher in women than in men, but by age 65, rates are twice as high in men.
  • Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color.
  • The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99 percent.
  • Approximately 95 percent of melanoma cases are attributable to UV exposure. Daily sunscreen use cut the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in half.
  • Skin cancer warning signs include changes in size, shape or color of a mole or other skin lesion, the appearance of a new growth on the skin, or a sore that doesn’t heal. If you notice any spots on your skin that are different from the others, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment with your doctor.

Providers at Winneshiek Medical Center Decorah Clinic, Ossian Clinic and Mabel Clinic can help you determine if you are at risk for skin cancer. Call 563-382-2911 to make an appointment.

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