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Florida dermatologist detects patient’s lung cancer

Doctor stresses importance of skin exams

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – A dermatologist in South Florida detected a patient's lung cancer during a routine skin check.

"I like to joke that dermatologists train our entire lives to be little detectives," said Dr. Brittany Smirnov, of Dermatology Associates of the Palm Beaches.

Like many dermatologists in Florida, Smirnov said she sees plenty of skin cancer and is trained to find it quickly. During a recent visit, one of her patients came in asking about a growth on his back. The patient thought it was harmless, but Smirnov had a hunch that it would require extra examination.

“Even things as simple as a cyst might not really be a cyst, it could be something else going on,” Smirnov said.

She said there were two reasons to raise the alarm.

“It felt really hard. Too hard to be a cyst really. And fixed to the underlying structures, which means it didn’t move around freely,” Dr. Smirnov said.

Unfortunately those clues signaled something serious.

“We became very suspicious that this was not in fact a cyst but lung cancer,” Smirnov said.

Smirnov said it was a good thing they caught it when they did, because if her patient had waited longer to be seen his cancer could have rapidly become fatal.

This is not the first time Smirnov has caught something like this during a simple skin exam. She recommends scheduling a check-up with your dermatologist any time there is a new or changing skin condition.

“Sometimes the first person that gets to really see it and takes the time to evaluate it will be your dermatologist,” Smirnov said.