When your summer plans take you outdoors, are you doing everything you can to protect yourself from skin cancer?
July is UV Safety Awareness Month.
Pamela Kernan's annual visit with her dermatologist turned out to be anything but routine.
"My dermatologist looked at the top of my head first, and saw an atypical area on the top of my head," Kernan said.
It ended up being a thin melanoma on the scalp. And on the scalp, melanoma can be especially aggressive.
"When you read about it and you read about poor prognosis, it gets a little scary," Kernan said.
Melanoma on the scalp accounts for about 6 percent of all melanomas, but is related to about 10 percent of deaths from melanoma.
Kernan underwent surgery to remove it. Because it was caught early, her prognosis is good.
Still, her life has changed.
"It's scary," Kernan said. "Your life flashes before you, and then you become very cautious. So sun for me is a new approach."
Now Kernan doesn't go out without a hat and sunscreen.
"They're usually at sporting events or out on the beach, and the scalp is not an area that is thought to be protected," said Dr. Rebecca Dodson.
Dr. Dodson is a surgical oncologist at Lifebridge Health in Maryland.
"Taking a look at palms and soles, fingernails, toenails. those are areas that we tend to ignore that are important," she says.
Kernan is grateful for Dr. Dodson's expertise. And as it turns out, they had a connection, long before Kernan's cancer.
"I'm a school nurse and I started at my school in 1993, and Dr. Dodson was a 7th grader," Kernan said.
"Rebecca Dodson! The light bulb went on, and it was wonderful, and I feel like this was all meant to be."