PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) Many of us know that skin cancer is not as common in people of color but it does happen and the symptoms are often overlooked. What’s worse is doctors say cancer is not the only skin problem, particularly with African Americans that goes unrecognized and untreated for far too long.
FOX 29’s Joyce Evans looks at a new clinic trying to change that and save lives.
The idea was born out of countless cases. Many were found right outside the doors of Temple University Hospital in North Philadelphia.
Marsha Davis is a lucky one.
"It felt just like a little bump on my back,” Marsha told FOX 29.
One of two bumps over the years. Both were first misdiagnosed.
The doctor said, 'Oh don't worry about it. Something bit you,'" she explained.
Both were mistreated at first two different times.
"She gave me something to bring it to a head," Marsha explained.
It got hard instead and the other bump, "I was squeezing it and it would bleed. And that's when I told my daughter, 'Can you bust this bump on my back'?' And when my daughter looked at it she said 'No! You need to go to the doctor and get it checked out'."
Twice she was referred to what is now officially the Ethnic Skin Clinic at Temple. It's run by Doctor Adaobi Nwaneshiudu. Marsha had skin cancer. She like so many people of color thought African Americans don't get skin cancer and certainly not twice.
"Her situation suggests that she may have a genetic predisposition to making cancers not just of the skin but inside organs," said Dr. Adaobi Nwaneshiudu.
Thankfully, she's all fixed up now.
"So the site is healing very well, I mean there's no sign of infection, no sign of redness the hidden, stitches used are beautiful. The most important thing is the cancer has been completely removed," Dr. Adaobi Nwaneshiudu explained.
It's more than just treating brown skin issues that convinced Doctor Nwaneshiudu, who is a product of Temple Med School, to came back.
"You can look for it, you can encourage your patients to assess their skin, and then you can do the studies needed," said Dr. Adaobi Nwaneshiudu
It's all in one place, quicker and a chance at better results, which dispels long held myths.
The doctor showed FOX 29 other conditions that very often go unrecognized or untreated. She makes it clear the reason ethnic skin issues are not being addressed better is not all on the doctors.
"And also from the community trusting to come in and get their skin assessed is another component so it works both ways," said Dr. Adaobi Nwaneshiudu
And by the time you hit 40 she says "Everyone should be aware of what is and what isn't on their skin, be aware of every mole that you have, routinely look at your skin every three months or so."
Marsha says she never goes without her sunscreen, which is something else too many people of color mistakenly believe they don't need. It can protect your skin from cancer causing light; however, the doctor says it also helps keep your skin looking younger and can prevent or improve uneven skin tones.