When Eileen Korey went to see her hair colorist, Kari Phillips, for a touch-up, she expected that it would be like any other hair appointment. But Phillips noticed a strange spot on Korey’s head, and it ended up saving her life.
Soon after Phillips took a photo of the spot to show her, Korey made an appointment with her dermatologist for a biopsy, she told Today. She was diagnosed with in situ melanoma, the lowest stage of skin cancer.
In situ melanoma, also known as stage 0 melanoma, is the easiest form of the cancer to cure and has a 99% survival rate. That’s because the cancer within in situ is still in the outer layer of the skin, and is therefore easier to remove.
“If I have to have melanoma this is the best one to have,” Korey told Today. “It was just this incredible sigh of relief.”
Yet, if Phillips hadn’t have noticed the spot, Korey could have gone undiagnosed and the cancer could have spread. It’s a reminder to get regular skin screenings for a dermatologist and to make sure they’re also checking underneath your hair.
Phillips told Today that the find was more than just luck â€” her sister is a dermatology nurse and so she’s well aware that skin cancer could be hiding in her client’s hairlines. She pays extra attention to the scalps of people sitting in her chair, and since she sees Korey every three weeks for a color touch-up, she knew that the spot hadn’t been there before.
The spot fit the American Academy of Dermatology’s guidelines for what to look for:
A = Asymmetry
One half is unlike the other half.
B = Border
An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C = Color
Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red, or blue.
D = Diameter
Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E = Evolving
A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
Since it’s unlikely that Korey could have noticed these signs herself, given where the spot was located on her head, it’s a good idea to have a partner or other loved one check your scalp or other parts of your skin that you can’t see in between visits to the dermatologist â€” it might just save your life.