How One Woman’s Hairdresser Spotted Melanoma and Saved Her Life

No one ever thinks they are going to get cancer. But when someone does, the cancer can appear in the most unlikely places. This was the case for former TV health reporter Eileen Korey who, in early June, visited her long-time colorist Kari Phillips for a touch-up – something she did every three weeks. But when Phillips noticed a new mark on the back of Korey’s head that had not been there during her last visit, she knew something was wrong.

Eileen Korey’s Diagnosis

Immediately, Phillips asked: “Did you hit your head? I see something here and I don’t like what I see.”[1]

melanoma skin cancer

“It was very frightening looking,” Korey told TODAY upon seeing a photo of her scalp that Phillips had taken. “Even though she said it was less than the size of a dime, it varied in color and it had varied edges. It looked like a bruise and it was flat and not raised.”[1]

Fortunately, Phillips’ sister is a dermatology nurse. This has allowed her to pick up knowledge along the way about unusual spots to look out for, which she applies to her hairstyling daily. It’s helpful especially because the average person rarely, if ever, inspects the back of their head. In fact, “they have no clue,” says Phillips. “I am always looking.”[1]

Many hairstylists aren’t aware of the incredibly powerful position they’re in. Not only do they help grow their clients’ confidence, but they can also keep an extra set of eyes out for health issues like skin cancer.

With the help of her hairstylist, Korey immediately visited a dermatologist for a biopsy. Although “the wait for the pathology [was] excruciating,”[1] Korey received a stage zero, in situ melanoma diagnosis. This turned out to be a huge relief because it meant the cancer had not grown beyond the top layer of the skin.

“If I have to have melanoma this is the best one to have,” said Korey. “We are under the impression that our hair protects us. We just don’t think about it.”[1] Since her diagnosis, while she may not be able to show off her hair, she has been wearing hats to protect her scalp.

eileen korey melanoma

Symptoms of Melanoma

In August, Korey’s scheduled to have a surgeon to remove the surface-level spot from her scalp, a procedure which should leave her cancer-free.

But melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is not always easily dodged. According to Dr. Adam Friedman, Korey’s immediate decision to visit her doctor was the best thing she could have done because “early identification increases the likelihood of better outcomes.”[1]

So, if you notice any of these skin cancer symptoms, be sure to visit your doctor right away:

  • An irregular mole

  • A vertical or dark streak on your nails

  • A spot in the back of your eye, blurred vision

  • Pimple(s) that won’t go away

  • A mole on the sole of your foot

  • Changes in your skin or scar after removing a mole

  • A black spot inside your cheek

melanoma sun protection

Another clear and easy-to-remember way to identify melanoma is the ABCDE method.

Asymmetry: your mole has an irregular shape
Border
: its edges are undefined, faded, or messy
Color
: it’s multiple colors, there’s redness, or has bleeding or discharge
Diameter
: the mole is bigger than the diameter of a AAA battery
Evolving
: it changes in size, color, or shape

Anyone comparing their moles regularly against these signs and symptoms as well as getting them checked immediately can significantly decrease the chances of a fatal outcome.

Remember…

If you can spot it, you can stop it.

The Hearty Soul

The Hearty Soul

The Hearty Soul is one of the world’s largest health information hubs. We connect regular people with cutting-edge research and the insights of medical professionals.
The Hearty Soul

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