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Dermatologist Takes Patients from Cancer to Cure

When Dustin Steller made an appointment for a full-body skin check, the 38-year-old father of two wasn’t anticipating the diagnosis of skin cancer. But when David Fieleke, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Cornerstone Dermatology & Surgery Group spotted the nickel-sized pink spot above Steller’s left eyebrow, the patient was glad he’d made an appointment.

“The thing that scared me was that spot didn’t really mean anything to me, but if I had let it go and found out three or four years from now, it could have been a much bigger problem,” Steller says. “It motivated me to tell my friends and family, people I care about. Stop putting off that appointment.”

When Steller’s biopsy results came back, Fieleke confirmed his diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma, the most common and easily treatable type of skin cancer. Fieleke, a fellowship-trained skin cancer surgeon, recommended Mohs micrographic surgery, an advanced treatment for basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. This in-office surgical procedure at Cornerstone Dermatology offers up to a 99 percent cure rate for these types of cancer.

Mohs is an ideal option for higher-risk skin cancers or for skin cancer in areas where there’s not as much surrounding skin or tissue – areas such as the face, ears, scalp and hands, Fieleke says.

“Mohs surgery allows us to take the smallest margin of tissue possible, sparing the most surrounding skin and offering patients the highest cure rate and best cosmetic result,” he says.

Two weeks after his diagnosis, Steller returned to Cornerstone for his procedure. Fieleke removed the visibly evident cancerous skin from his forehead. With Mohs, the surgeon is also trained as the pathologist, so Fieleke examined the tissue under a microscope while Steller waited. If there had been any remaining skin cancer, he could have mapped out exactly where the residual tumor remained on the skin and only removed more skin in that specific location.

After microscopically evaluating Steller’s skin, Fieleke returned and shared the good news – his patient was now cancer-free. For Steller, it felt as though a weight had been lifted in just over an hour’s time. Fieleke stitched him back up and the patient was on his way, looking forward to six-month follow-up skin checks after his brush with skin cancer.

While Caucasians and men older than 50 have the highest risk of developing melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, anyone can be affected, so it’s good to have a baseline full-body skin check Fieleke says. Risk factors include UV exposure from sunlight and indoor tanning, ‘moley’ skin, a family history of skin cancer, and any previous skin cancers.

“There’s sometimes the mentality of ‘I’m too young for skin cancer,’ but with the prevalence of indoor tanning bed use within the past 20 years, it’s always better to be safe than sorry,” Fieleke says. “Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are highly treatable when we catch them early.”

While Fieleke is an expert in the advanced surgical and reconstructive treatment of skin cancer, he’s also a general dermatologist for the whole family. During a clinic day, he’ll see a variety of patients – from infants with persistent diaper rash, to teens with acne, to adults suffering from psoriasis and a gamut of other conditions. He says he appreciates the opportunity to hear his patients’ concerns and then collaborate with them for a treatment that either cures or effectively manages their dermatologic condition.

Fieleke and his family made Lee’s Summit home in 2011. He opened Cornerstone Dermatology in July 2018 to provide expert medical, surgical and aesthetic dermatology care for his hometown. He wants people to feel a difference at the new office, which combines modern technology and efficiency with customer service and a caring touch.

“When a patient leaves Cornerstone, we want them to feel they’ve received really exceptional dermatology care in a comfortable office setting,” he says. “You can trust us for all your skin health needs, from easily treatable conditions to those that require surgical intervention.”

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