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Know your spots.
That is what Georgette Samaras, education coordinator for the Cancer Institute at University of Tennessee Medical Center, said during a recent free skin screening at Oliver Springs Housing Authority.
The demand for that screening was so high the authority is scheduling appointments for a second clinic on Oct. 5.
Samaras talked with visitors about any suspicious marks on their bodies and took pictures to be looked at by Dr. James Lewis, the program coordinator, and a surgical oncologist specializing in melanoma.
Samaras asked patients if suspicious marks has grown, changed color, itched or bled.
Follow-up will occur, including recommendations for anyone that has a mark the staff feels look suspicious.
“Melanoma is on the rise here in East Tennessee,” Samaras explained to Timmy Tuggle, an Oliver Springs street department employee who works outside daily and admitted to not wearing sunblock.
“If you work between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., that is the most intense light out there,” Samaras added.
This isn’t the first educational outreach project that UT Medical associated colleagues have held at the authority.
Samaras praised Oliver Springs Housing Authority Manager Juanita Blasingame for organizing the events and getting the word out to area residents.
“This doesn’t happen all the time,” Samaras said. “This is phenomenal. It is Juanita’s work that does this. She gets the word out in the community more than anyone else we work with.”
Blasingame is thankful to the staff at UT Medical Center because her daughter, Karen Grindle, detected her own cancer in time after attending a breast health class at the authority. Thirty-five at the time, Grindle hadn’t begun regular mammograms.
“I’m so grateful to UT. They have done so much for us,” Blasingame said.
Grindle said she could only feel a small portion of the lump that turned out to be melanoma and the size of a grapefruit.
Some of the contacts they have made through the education outreach were able to get her an appointment quickly.
“Within a few weeks it would have been stage 4, and they couldn’t have done anything,” Grindle said.
“I had no idea. I never had skin lesions or anything.”
Doctors ended up also removing several lymph nodes and found out Grindle had thyroid cancer.
Because of her quick action, Grindle has been cancer free for more than six years.
“It will be seven years the end of this March,” she said.
Other programs the authority has held and may hold again in the future include a carotid artery test; a class on women’s health, including ovarian cancer; and a colon cancer awareness program.
The authority has also held a mammogram clinic in Oliver Springs in the past, and those that were unable to pay were provided grant money through an Avon and Susan B. Komen program, according to Blasingame.