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NHL: Unusual anecdote warns of dangers of skin cancer

Ramiro Guzman
7 min read
Brial Hamilton, coach of the Vancouver Canucks, was diagnosed in time

The National Hockey League (NHL) witnessed an enigmatic episode, but a great lesson. Vancouver Canucks coach Brian Hamilton was diagnosed with skin cancer.

Although it seems like any premise, what really stands out is the way in which he found out. It was thanks to a young aspiring doctor that Hamilton was warned in time about his illness.

The diagnosis of a 22-year-old girl who changed Hamilton's life

On October 23, 2021, the NHL was at its peak in terms of championship games. Vancouver Canucks were up against their Seattle rival, Team Kraken.

Brian Hamilton was, as usual, part of the main technical staff of the Vancouver team. For him, it was a purely sporting new chapter in the world of hockey. However, a 22-year-old fan was not expected to completely change her life.

The young woman, identified as Nadia Popovici, is an inveterate fan of the Seattle squad. In a brief approach he had with Hamilton, he quickly revealed the presence of a suspicious-looking nevus (mole).

Fortunately, his medical studies, while incomplete, were enough to alert the NHL technician. Through a peculiar way, Popovici managed to communicate an important message.

"The mole on the back of your neck is prossibly cancerous. Please, go to see a doctor! (The mole on the back of your neck is possibly carcinogenic. Please go see the doctor)" — The note read the jovial medical student wrote on her phone.
Nadia Popovici's message has had a great impact at the beginning of the year

Hamilton read the message carefully and, after a little thought, decided to get to work. Months later, he tells how that message completely changed his life, thanking the girl for her medical acuity.

The diagnosis was made early and is out of danger

For that moment the fact did not transcend too much. Even so, the New York Times clarifies that Hamilton met with his wife and both decided to proceed to a medical consultation.

The mole with carcinogenic characteristics was removed and subsequently biopsied. When the results came in, Popovici's concerns were correct. The technical member of the Canucks was a carrier of malignant melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer.

Already in 2022, in a press conference held last Saturday, Hamilton commented on what he has experienced in recent months since October. He appreciated the insight of the young woman who helped him and immediately launched a campaign to find her.

"Thanks to her, I am free from suffering the simmering fire of a deadly disease. The doctor told me that if I continued to ignore that mole, for 4 or 5 years I would probably not be alive" — said Hamilton.

Popovici was contacted by the Canucks' social media once she was identified. She was invited to personally meet Hamilton who, in her own name and that of her entire family, thanked the young medical student.

An unexpected reward

In the first instance, Popovici comments for the New York Times itself that he regretted for a moment what he did. He thought that perhaps he was deliberating and shouldn't draw attention in that way.

To his surprise, January 2022 unveiled the impact of what his message meant to Hamilton and his family. In response, the Vancouver Canucks general retinue unexpectedly rewarded her.

The reunion between the two characters allowed us to delve into the facts

She was awarded a special scholarship in the net amount of $10,000. With this, they not only contribute to the girl's completion of her medical studies, but it is also a minimal sign of gratitude for her work.

The "Popovici-Hamilton case" reminds us of the danger of skin cancer

Cancer is a potentially malignant disease characterized by an abnormal cell proliferation pattern. In this case, the abnormality occurs between the skin, altering its different layers and structural components.

Cancer cells lack physiological characteristics, being classified as "malignant". In this sense, they affect the epidermis (superficial layer of the skin) and its three types of cellular components: squamous, basal and melanocytes.

What causes it? Well, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. Poor skin care, lack of protection from the sun and long exposure to the major star are the main triggers.

Other important risk factors are a family history of skin cancer.

At the same time, the suffering of burns, potentially carcinogenic moles, previous skin lesions and a white complexion, contribute to the appearance of this disease.

How many types of skin cancer are there?

To get into context, it should be noted that the skin is made up of different layers. Both the epidermis (superficial part) and the dermis (deep zone) are the areas where the events occur.

As already mentioned, the epidermis is made up of three types of specialized cells: squamous, basal, and melanocytes. Today, it is known that the most common types of skin cancer affect each of them, baptizing with the same name.

  1. Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.

  2. Basal cell carcinoma of the skin.

  3. Melanoma.

The first two are included in an annexed category named "non-melanoma skin cancer". In order to differentiate one from the other even more simply, such a nomenclature has been established.

Clinical manifestations and malignancy of each of them

  1. Basal cell carcinoma is most frequently seen on the neck and face. According to the American Cancer Society, it can manifest itself with variability. A serous lump; flat skin lesion or ulcer with a tendency to recur.

  2. On the other hand, squamous cell carcinoma appears on the face, neck, and hands. In specific cases, it affects the skin that is not even exposed to the sun. Its appearance is described as a reddish nodule or a scaly flat lesion with the presence of scabs.

  3. Malignant melanoma does not meet any criteria for presentation. Any part of the skin is prone to be affected by its constitution. It is characterized as large brown lesions with small areas of blue, dark blue, or red.

The flat lesions typical of this class of cancer are recognized by their asymmetry, irregular borders, abnormal color, larger diameter, and rapid evolution. Before any "stain" or similar expression that is put on the scene suddenly, the ideal is to go to a doctor.

Basic infographic on skin cancer given by the Center for Research and Development in Health Sciences (CIDICS)

Regarding its malignancy, it has been shown that this type of cancer, if treated in time, is completely eradicated. But, special care must be taken with melanoma, since its spread is faster with aggressive behavior.

What is the clinical approach for skin cancer?

  1. For basal cell carcinoma, treatment is based on surgical excision of the lesion. It is detached, and its possible recurrence is controlled with specific suppressive therapy.

  2. Squamous cell carcinoma follows the same pattern, but with other supplements. After being removed with simple surgery, it is controlled with immunotherapy or radiotherapy. In stage 0, photodynamic therapy has shown good results.

The treatment of melanoma is more complex because of its greater malignancy. In non-invasive stages, surgical removal of the lesion, as well as a small area of the surrounding area, will suffice.

If there is involvement of the perimeter lymph nodes, they are removed in the same way to avoid relapses or risks. The amount of these structures to be treated with surgery will depend or not on the condition of the sentinel node.

When it is not possible to operate, usually in stages III and IV, suppressive therapy is used.

Immunotherapy and other palliative measures to alleviate symptoms, improve the patient's quality of life and prolong it is the objective in these cases.


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