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Ankeny clinic diagnoses skin cancer through telehealth during COVID-19

A patient told Local 5 that if it weren't for virtual diagnoses made readily available during the pandemic, she may have ignored her melanoma.

ANKENY, Iowa — Like many medical clinics during COVID-19, Revive Clinic and Spa in Ankeny is now closed to everyone except for patients receiving emergent medical procedures.

Owner Stefanie Gatica, a nurse practitioner, says that typically, she and her staff provide a variety of services. They range from aesthetic procedures like Botox injections, to dermatological skin consultations. 

Because Gatica had to close the doors to non-emergent appointments during the pandemic, during COVID-19, she's kept her business going by turning to virtual medicine.

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"I can usually get a really good history and see the condition and be able to make a diagnosis pretty easily just over telehealth," said Gatica.

Telehealth is allowing medical professionals like Gatica to continue providing medical services that wouldn’t otherwise be allowed in person during COVID-19. 

Patients Like Tami Lewton, of Ankeny, have seen the benefit. 

Lewton, who had surgery for melanoma, a cancerous mole, in her early twenties, recently found another mole that she was concerned about. However, she didn't feel it necessitated an in-person appointment, due to the limitations imposed by COVID-19.

Instead, Lewton sent Gatica a picture through the clinic’s Facebook.

"I knew that if it wasn’t that big of a deal, I didn’t really want to be in a doctors office," Lewton said. 

Taking a look, Gatica diagnosed that it was melanoma. 

Credit: Revive Clinic & Spa

"I said, look this needs to come off first thing Monday. If melanoma goes untreated, you know, patients can die from that," Gatica. 

Within days, Dr. Gatica was able to do an excision, remove the lesion and get Lewton safely to a point where she can have cancer surgery this Friday. 

"I did the excition to diagnose," said Gatica. Then, she "sent to the dermatopathologists at Unity Point, and they said the margins were clear but [Lewton] needs additional surgery by a surgeon for a much larger section."

Lewton say if it weren’t for the easy option of showing the mole virtually instead of an in-person appointment, she may not have gotten around to it so soon.

"If I hadn’t been able to just send it to her you know that’s an interesting question. I don’t, I probably would have waited longer to be honest," Lewton said. 

Credit: Mayo Clinic

"It was. It was the perfect answer for me," said Lewton. 

For more information on melanoma spots, checkout the Mayo Clinic website here. 

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