An Iowa woman is raising awareness about a very rare type of melanoma after she suffered a symptom often overlooked by medical professionals.
Eight years ago, Amy Jardon noticed a sore patch between the toes of her left foot.
It was the first sign that she was suffering from acral melanoma, a disease with a survival rate lower than other forms of skin cancer.
She showed it to her physician, who wisely sent her for a biopsy out of an abundance of caution but told her that it was probably nothing to worry about.
“I thought ‘that’s interesting. I’ve never noticed that before,” Ms Jardon, 48, told TODAY.com.
“I had an appointment the following week with my primary doctor for something else. I talked to her about this. She said: ‘That’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.’”
So when results from the Mayo Clinic came back positive for melanoma, it was something of a surprise.
Ms Jardon, an avid runner, was concerned that her life would be eclipsed by the condition.
Following the diagnosis, Ms Jardon underwent surgery in which all the skin on a one-centimetre radius from the lesion was removed.
But, before undergoing the procedure, Ms Jardon asked her doctor if she could delay the date in order to run a race that she had been preparing for.
In hindsight, Ms Jorday told TODAY.com she thinks she should have made her well-being the top priority.
“Looking back, I would not recommend that people do that,” Ms Jardon said.
“I think he thought this was an early stage and he was going to ruin my world by telling me I couldn’t run anymore. He was letting me have one last hurrah.”
After a complex recovery – where her passion had to go on pause – Ms Jardon got the green light from her doctor to start running again. She is now five years free of cancer.
Having survived the ordeal, she now wants to help educate others on acral melanoma, noting that knowledge about the often easily-missed symptoms can mean the difference between life and death.
Acral melanoma only appears on the hands and feet, as opposed to exposed areas in the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology Association advises patients to look out for asymmetrical and scalloped borders, different hues of colours, a diameter greater than a pencil eraser and spot changes in their skin lesions.
The majority of patients with acral melanoma survive at least five years, according to the Cancer Treatments of America. Individuals with darker skin colours are at greater risk because they might miss the early pigmentation changes and also because of misinformation that people of colour are less likely to develop melanoma.
“I like to stress that melanoma can occur anywhere,” Ms Jardon told TODAY.com.
“I’ve learned that there are other rare subtypes, including ocular and mucosal.”