Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Tomorrows Technology, Today."

Keeping the tradition of being a lab rat, I participated in a clinical research trial on Friday during my visit with my new dermatologist, Dr. Maggoo. After noticing a suspicious spot on my right arm (see previous blog posts for pictures) Dr. Maggoo asked if I would participate in a study before having the spot biopsied. The technical name for the trial is: "In Vivo Confocal Microscopy of Cutaneous Neoplasms and Normal Skin." Phew---that is a mouthful.

The purpose of the trial is "to investigate new non-invasive imaging techniques for the evaluation of skin lesions, as well as normal skin...The long-term goal is to develop a technique that will improve the early detection of skin cancer and eliminate the need for many skin biopsies."

The possibility of less scars in the future? Count me in!

So, how does this work?

First, I should tell you (because I didn't know...) "in vivo" means in/on a living subject. So, obviously, I was the living subject. The confocal microscope was placed on my skin to look at the suspicious mole. "The reflectance confocal microscope uses a sophisticated lens device and a very weak infrared light source to imagine the individual cells that make up the skin." (Mom, and 6 doctors, watched all of this...From what I could see, it looked pretty freakin' cool!) Then, another device, an optical coherence tomography, "uses a lens and very weak infrared light to image structure of skin. The other device, the fluorescence confocal microscope uses a similar lens system as well as a small amount of fluorescent dye that is injected into the skin." "Your skin will be evaluated with one or both of these confocal microscopes and the OCT device. In the event that the images obtained from your skin or skin lesion meet criteria for removal, a biopsy will be performed."

The entire procedure was painless. It took a while since everyone is still learning the ropes, but it was quite interesting hearing my doctor teach the others. For the record, he seems like a great teacher. It also helped that everyone was super friendly and hilarious. They made me relax...(Soooo unlike the doctor who did my neck ultrasound!!) Like I said in the previous post, there are only 9 other places in the country who have the ability to do this trial. There are only 40 in the world. Dr. Maggoo flat out told me I was watching tomorrows technology being used today. I feel privileged to have been part of such an experimental trial. Maybe in a few years when this procedure becomes more readily available, more people will go to the dermatologist because they will not automatically fear having something removed. You never know why people postpone going to appointments...Fear is a funny thing, and denial is so easy!

As you know, I had the have the biopsy. I am hoping Dr. Maggoo was just being safe, but I will know for sure in a few more days. I will be sure to post when I get the results.

To those of you who have the opportunity to participate in trials, I encourage you to do so. Without research, we will not gain additional answers. Don't you want to help save someone from this nightmare?

Happy Wednesday, friends. XO!


Tim said...

That's so cool Chelsea! I'd love to see some sort of "non-invasive" assessment process for moles (I wish I had the option to help with the trial)

I'm coming up on my 5th skin check this month and I've had one or 2 moles biopsied each time I go (I've been told each time that I'm not a heavy mole "producer", so I get the feeling she's just taking the most suspicious one or two each time I visit... making sure I get my money's worth!). So far everything has been ok, but it's always scary.

Biopsies are simple enough that I'm sure it's a "better safe than sorry" attitude that dermatologists take. Even if it ever turns out to be something, I really don't think they're a big worry since they're being caught so early.

Even so, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you that everything is fine (and that you get the results as soon as possible... Waiting is the worst!)


Kate said...

Very cool technology! And of course I am hoping & praying your results are good when they come back. By the way, because of you and your story, I scheduled a full skin check with a dermatologist coming up in a few weeks here. I even got my husband scheduled for one. So thank you for spreading the word about melanoma awareness and sharing your story and journey on your blog. I'm not sure how I came across it but I'm so glad I did and it would be nice to one day meet in person! Sending good thoughts for your biopsy results :)

Lisa said...

Chelsea, thanks so much letting us know about this trial. As someone who has had 32 biopsies, I would love to know more about where the ten centers in the U.S. are. If there is any way you can share that info, I know so many folks would appreciate it. Had my six month mole check today. I will pray that you get the "all clear" too! Wishing you all the best, Lisa

Rich McDonald said...

Very interesting, thanks for sharing the information. I'll have to find out whether the UCCC folks are doing this. Best wishes for happy biopsy results!

Chelsea said...

Tim, you know...I was going to post a blog about how I am not even stressing the biopsy, but then I got scared that I would jinx myself. Not that I am a full believer in that being possible, but I don't want to take any chances! I feel so grateful that I have been able to participate in these trials. I would not have been able to do ANYTHING except Interferon if I had stayed in Roanoke, VA. I guess I should stop whining about going to NYC all the time... Hope you're doing well!

Kate, I love that y'all are going for full body checks! Please let me know how it goes. I would LOVE to meet you in person one day!

Lisa, 32 biopsies?! Oh my! If I talk to the dermatologist directly, I will ask what other centers are participating in the trial. Wishing YOU all the best!

Rich, thank you as always!