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Skin Cancer: Inside The Operating Room

July 26, 2012, 6:17 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Skin Cancer: Inside The Operating Room
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Skin cancer rates continue to rise, especially among young adults.

Chances are you likely know someone who has or had the disease.  One of our co-workers at KELO-TV was just diagnosed and wants to warn others.

Jack Gregg is not afraid to step up to the plate, especially when it comes to outdoor activities.

"I've coached baseball and soccer and played soccer, and I still play softball," Gregg said.

But all that time in the sun resulted in a scary situation.  Around the beginning of the year, Gregg noticed a mole appear on his face, and it continued to grow.

"We have a nurse who comes to the station and dropped off this pamphlet. I looked at the pamphlet and went, 'That looks exactly like what I have.' I made an appointment with the dermatologist," Gregg said.

Gregg did indeed have basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.  On Thursday, Gregg went under the knife to have the cancer removed.  Sanford Dermatologist Dr. David Shields removed tissue, marked which areas the tissue came from and then looked at whether the cancer was all removed.

"Sixty percent of the time with the average tumor, we'll get it out with the first stage. That means, of course, 40 percent of the time we don't.  So it's not uncommon to go back a couple times, and there are very large cases where you go all day and maybe into the next day," Shields said.

Gregg is not alone in his battle against skin cancer. It's the most common type of cancer in the U.S. In fact, one in five Americans will get it sometime in their life.

"I had a skin cancer too, so we're not any of us immune to it," Shields said.

Shields and Gregg now both warn others to be on the lookout for skin cancer. While the type of cancer Gregg had rarely is deadly, it's still best to catch it early.

"It starts to eat away at the skin and gradually gets bigger until it can destroy important structures, like the nose.  And basal cell occurs 30 percent of the time on the nose," Shields said.

"If you get these moles, get it checked out," Gregg said.

While Gregg still enjoys catching the third out, he has started taking some extra precautions to protect himself from the sun.

"Sunscreen, and I'm not a big hat person, but I wear hats now. When I'm out playing softball or soccer, I'm wearing a hat," Gregg said.

Doctors say they've removed all of Gregg's cancer.  The odds are in his favor.  Shields says there's a one percent chance of it re-occurring in the same spot.  But patients do have a 20 percent chance of getting the skin cancer in a different area of your body.

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