Pediatric Melanoma Day At Moffitt Cancer Center
In August, AIM at Melanoma’s Director of Community Engagement, Brenda Busby, attended the Pediatric Melanoma Clinic Day at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Florida. There were approximately 24 children in attendance, all of whom were showered with comfort and support.
The annual clinic gives children with melanoma a medical appointment to look forward to rather than dread. Says 12-year-old Alle Rupp: “The Moffit Cancer Center clinic is so fun. It is awesome to know that you are not the only one on this journey. It is a reward every year for being NED! Dr. Sondak is very kid friendly and makes sure you know you will be okay!”
These young patients see their treatment team, but they also meet other children with melanoma, enjoy fun activities such as balloon animals, arts and crafts, and munch on sweet treats. They even shoot balloon rockets across the waiting room of the Moffitt McKinley Outpatient Center! And in the middle of it all is their beloved Dr. Vernon Sondak.
“No matter what age a person is when melanoma is diagnosed and treated, reoccurrence is always a possibility – sometimes many years later. In addition, our pediatric melanoma patients face a lifetime challenge to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. So, most of our kids with melanoma will require essentially a lifetime of check-ups of their skin, lymph nodes and more. We try to make it convenient, memorable and at least a little bit fun by having this summertime clinic day when they can see other kids in the same situation, and in an environment that’s very different than the stressful and unsettling time when they were originally diagnosed and treated. Pediatric melanoma doesn’t get as much attention as we think it should – even medical providers are unaware of how big a problem it can be – so we look forward to collaborating with AIM at Melanoma as we work toward raising awareness about, and hopefully eventually wiping out, melanoma in kids as well as adults.” – Dr. Vernon Sondak, Chair, Department of Cutaneous Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center
Pediatric melanoma presents differently than adult melanoma, and the traditional ABCDE criteria do not always apply. Parents and medical personnel should also look for growing lesions, bumps that are red, pink, or colorless, bumps that itch or bleed, and spots that begin to change.
Diagnosing melanoma in children can be difficult, and it is necessary to consult with a dermatopathologist to confirm the diagnosis. Prognoses in children are typically good, and on-going research in adult melanoma will, in turn, help further treatments in children.
With September being Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, AIM at Melanoma wants to recognize and honor our youngest melanoma patients. We are committed to supporting the needs of this rare patient community by working with patient families to find new and much-needed ways to offer support and by working with cancer centers across the globe to advance research for all melanomas. By recognizing the unique needs of this pediatric patient community, we can help fill the void in pediatric patient support.
AIM at Melanoma encourages pediatric patient families to share their story with us.