Neurological complications can wreak havoc on our bodies as we age and for my grandmother, this is no exception. As an older woman diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, there is no doubt that my grandmother is experiencing the realm of complications that come with a neurological disease that typically causes immobility. But, in addition to living with the immobility complications, we recently learned that some Parkinson’s disease patients may also suffer from risks of melanoma skin cancer as well.
It is true that there are many secondary health risks that Parkinson’s patients live with; most of these risks involve mobility and mental health issues. But, in a report by the Salt Lake Tribune, these patients may now be at a greater risk for melanoma skin cancer. While we have long understood that Parkinson’s disease in men may increase a risk for developing prostate cancer, both men and women now have an additional risk to contend with.
The good news to this finding is that melanoma skin cancer screenings, as well as prostate screenings, will now be typically recommended for patients with Parkinson’s disease. While prostate cancer screenings are still believed to be somewhat inefficient, the use of melanoma skin cancer screenings are not only effective but also very cost efficient and lead to full recovery, in most cases, when melanoma is caught in early development.
Fortunately, other forms of cancer have not been found to be common among Parkinson’s disease patients. While this does not mean that patients, like my grandmother, won’t develop other forms of malignancy, it does mean that we do not need to take extra special precautions in screening beyond what is typically recommended for elderly patients and their families. If you are caring for a patient with Parkinson’s disease, be sure to add melanoma skin cancer to the list of risk and, for men, also add prostate cancer. Schedule the screenings for these conditions despite the lack of efficiency at this time and despite the recommendations from the physician.
For my grandmother, who is living with Parkinson’s disease, a regular visit to a dermatologist will be necessary. We want to be sure that we are providing not only the care she needs for her Parkinson’s disease primary symptoms, but also work to mitigate any other health complications that may manifest in the future. Early screening of melanoma skin cancer is simple and is now added to the list of health issues we will address.
NCBI Article on Prostate Screening in PD Patients
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