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Shikha Prakash got to see her hard work pay off Thursday as dozens attended a free skin cancer screening she arranged at Texas Oncology-Paris.
“It’s a community project dedicated to increasing skin cancer awareness,” she said.
“One of the things this is about is educating the public about ways to prevent skin cancer. Screenings like this are a good way to do that, which is why I’m opening this free to the public.”
A sophomore at Paris High School, Shikha put together Operation: Save Your Skin as part of an independent project with Future Problem Solvers. Nearly four dozen attended the free screening from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Paris Cancer Center.
“I realized a lot of young adults and my friends have started indoor tanning and staying out in the sun without protection,” she said.
Melanoma is the most common type of cancer, she said. One in five Americans – one in three Texans – will get it at some point. But it’s also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Simple steps are all that’s needed, such as:
The protective measures aren’t just for sunny days. Clouds do not block ultraviolet light, so even overcast skies can lead to damage.
“I would like to thank Texas Oncology for letting us use their facility and providing the staff because an event like this is not easy to put together,” Shikha said.
She handed out free samples of sunscreen donated by Blue Lizard and brochures that offered tips, such as “The ABCDEs for skin cancer protection,” which include checking moles for asymmetry, borders that are uneven, color variations, diameter more than .25 inches and evolving, or changes.
“I hope people will be more aware, and they will keep an eye on suspicious spots,” she said.
Shikha plans to have a booth at Christmas at Fair Park this weekend to continue her mission of education.
Other planned methods include pamphlets, poster boards, advertisement and presentations to schools, organizations and community events.
She would like to have an informational center at the city pool, and pull in doctors and local businesses in promoting the use of sunscreen and other precautions. She has plans for a Melanoma Walk in May, which is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
She also plans to get proactive, providing schools with UV monitors so they can take precautions, raising funds to erect shade structures to be constructed over play and picnic areas.
She would also like to see skin cancer prevention incorporated into the classroom and even make an informational DVD and present it to various schools.
Dr. Chris Prakash, an oncologist with the cancer center, said he’s proud of his daughter for trying to help the community.
“I see cancer all day long, so anything we can do to prevent it is a good thing,” he said.
“Medical care is getting more expensive all the time, so if you can catch some of these things early, you can save a lot of money.”
Sixth grader Madeline Petrikas was also on hand to talk about Project HOPE (Helping Others Prepare Effectively for cancer).
The daughter of the cancer center’s Dr. James Petrikas, Madeline started her project after a Crockett Middle School teacher was diagnosed with cancer.
She has plans for a resource center that can be placed at the Paris Public Library and Paris Regional Medical Center for public access and information. Paris Lumber has donated the materials and Paris Junior High School student Kyle Wright is building it, she said.
Madeline is also working on a children’s book about cancer and is working with a school counselor to establish a support group.
“It will help children if they’ve lost a loved one to cancer or another serious illness,” she said. “Sometimes children are hit the hardest by cancer because they don’t’ really understand what it is.”