Allina Health resumes free skin cancer screenings as Minnesota sees surge in cases

Allina Health is bringing back a lifesaving service with its free skin cancer screenings after a pause because of the pandemic.

The appointments are part of Melanoma Monday, a time to stress the importance of screening for melanoma during Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Allina Health said appointments are fully booked.

“We’ve been able to find and capture so many people that would not have been able to get cancer screenings otherwise,” Dr. Liz Farhat, Allina Health’s lead dermatologist, said.

Skin cancer is 95% curable when detected early, according to Allina Health.

The health care system said Minnesota has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the nation, and it’s also one of the states that has seen both an increase in melanoma cases and death rates.

“I have found both melanomas and non-melanoma skin cancers at these screenings,” Farhat said, adding, “Often people don’t know what they have on their skin until they get checked out.”

Farhat said skin cancers are the most common type of cancer, something a family in western Wisconsin knows all too well.

“It’s rough, you know, not having Jenni here anymore,” Sheri Anderson said about her daughter, Jenni Tacheny, who died at age 34 from desmoplastic melanoma.

Anderson herself is currently in a bout with skin cancer.

“I went on a little chemo holiday for a few weeks and now I started up again this week,” Anderson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS while sitting next to her brother, Brant Backes, who recently had two spots removed from his skin. One was positive for cancer.

“Don’t wait because you don’t know what it is,” Backes said. “It’s kind of what my parents always said was, ‘Plan for the worst and hope for the best.'”

Anderson’s community has rallied around her family, and that’s not over. Close friends of Anderson have planned a couple of benefits at UW Wanderoos Bar & Grill in Amery, Wisconsin. The first will be May 13, starting at 6 p.m. The next will be June 10, starting at 4 p.m.

While Allina Health’s free screenings are full, people can find resources to learn about melanoma and schedule care here.

You can also pre-screen yourself at home by using this infographic from Allina Health.