By Steve Blanchard - July 26, 2021
The Mole Patrol® is back!
Moffitt Cancer Center’s mobile skin cancer screening program is returning to Clearwater Beach Pier 60 on July 31,marking the Mole Patrol’s 25th anniversary and first public screening event since 2019.
The annual screening event is free to the public. From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Moffitt’s Cutaneous Oncology team will conduct skin screenings and the Head and Neck Oncology Program will offer screenings for head and neck cancers.
“In 2019, both clinical teams broke records in the number of people we screened at the pier,” said Dr. Vernon Sondak, chair of the Department of Cutaneous Oncology. “There were quite a few concerning findings in people we screened that year and our goal is always to get those issues to be evaluated as soon as possible, because early detection and diagnosis saves lives.”
That summer Moffitt’s Cutaneous Oncology team conducted 394 screenings and the Head and Neck team screened 212 people during the nearly seven-hour event.
This is the third time the two Moffitt programs have teamed up to offer the service. Both will use the space at the pavilion and the health care team will follow COVID safety protocols to protect those being screened. Sondak and his team are hopeful that the public will take advantage of this year’s event, especially since many people may have put off screenings and other routine medical evaluations during the pandemic.
Each year, more than 55,000 Americans are diagnosed with head, neck and oral cancers. The majority are caused by tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption or ultraviolet light exposure. And with the recent increase in oral cancer diagnoses related to human papillomavirus infections, early detection is more important than ever.
According to Dr. J. Trad Wadsworth, vice chair and chief surgeon in the Head and Neck-Endocrine Oncology Department, events like Moffitt’s annual Pier 60 screening are a great, free way to detect many head and neck cancer issues early.
Head and neck cancer screenings are painless and quick. It takes just a couple of minutes for trained professionals to look into the mouth and throat and feel the neck.
"Every screening event we identify patients who need follow-up and who otherwise may have had a delay in diagnosis."- Head & Neck-Endocrine surgeon
“Every screening event we identify patients who need follow-up and who otherwise may have had a delay in diagnosis,” Wadsworth said. “Head and neck cancers can mimic symptoms from more common illnesses and so are often detected late.”
Meanwhile, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. One in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer. This year alone, doctors will diagnose nearly 5.5 million people with the disease, but early detection can save lives at any age.
"These screenings are noninvasive and painless, and skin cancers, including melanoma, are right there on the surface and that means we have the opportunity to find them early."- Dr. Vernon Sondak, chair, department of cutaneous oncology
“These screenings are noninvasive and painless, and skin cancers, including melanoma, are right there on the surface and that means we have the opportunity to find them early,” said Sondak, adding that the earlier a concerning spot is discovered, the more effective treatment will likely be. “Now that we have vaccines and pandemic restrictions have been relaxed, we long to be out in Florida’s sunshine with our friends but we have to realize that the sun’s ultraviolet radiation isn’t our friend. We have to remember to protect ourselves.”