New tech helps reduce biopsies for skin cancer patients - WFSB 3 Connecticut


New tech helps reduce biopsies for skin cancer patients

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Paul Dykas said skin cancer developed all over his body, including the back of his calf. (Dykas photo) Paul Dykas said skin cancer developed all over his body, including the back of his calf. (Dykas photo)
(Dykas photo) (Dykas photo)
(Dykas photo) (Dykas photo)

Skin cancer is the most common of all the cancers combined, according to experts.

New technology in Connecticut, however, can at least help reduce the number of biopsies for patients who have skin cancer.

"I had bleeding on the nose, and it would stop and heal over and then come back," said Paul Dykas, a patient.

Dykas said what started as a scratch that wouldn't heal turned out to be something bigger.

"I went to the doctors and he said to me, I'll never forget the words, he said, 'you're young to have skin cancer,'" he said.

Dykas said he was 40 years old at the time.

"We didn't do anything," he explained. "We didn't put anything on. We didn't wear hats. You know, we wore shorts and t-tops."

He said sunscreen was an afterthought.

"So, now we're paying for it, so to speak," Dykas said.

Thirty years later, he has had more than a dozen surgeries to remove the skin cancer on his body.

"[It was on] my back, my hand, [the] back of [my] neck and then the big one was on the back of the leg," Dykas said.

Just last year, Dykas said the doctors discovered a problem with a little freckle on the back of his calf.

"When they said it was melanoma it was 'I'm not supposed to get that,'" he said. "I would've never found it on the back of my calf and I wouldn't even know that it was, what it was."

Doctors said they knew what it was thanks to a tool at the UConn Health Center in Farmington. It's called a confocal microscopy.

"This technology allows us to look at the skin, actually on a cellular level, almost like a biopsy, but in vivo without hurting the patient," said Dr. Jane Grant-Kels, dermatology, UConn Health Center.

Confocal uses a low-level laser energy. It does not penetrate deep.

"So you can even do it on the abdomen of a pregnant woman," Grant-Kels said.

Grant-Kels said it takes about 20 minutes to get an image of a lesion. It's a bit longer than a regular biopsy.

However, there are no needles involved and patients can find out from the doctor exactly what a mole or lesion is reading.

"It's either benign and the patient doesn't need a biopsy or we're a little bit suspicious and we're not sure," Grant-Kels said. "So the patient does need a biopsy. Or it's a slam-dunk skin cancer and the patient is sent for definitive surgery and only has one surgery instead of two."

"Most of the surgery that I've had done, even on this one on the calf, you walk out [and] I didn't even get a pain pill," Dykas said.

Dykas said he now goes the the UConn Health Center every three months for a full body scan, just to see if any questionable spots come up.

"[If they do,] they're finding them when they're small and that is critical," he said.

Confocal is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but not currently covered by insurance.

UConn health officials, however, said they expect that to change come January.

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