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Skin Cancer Diagnosis After Too Many Seasons In the Sun

August 29, 2019

Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, Danny Clinkscale enjoyed endless summer days at the beach. As a sportscaster here in the Midwest, he has covered countless outdoor sporting events including college football, auto racing, Royals baseball and more. He also loves to hit the links any chance he gets.

Eventually, all those hours in the sun caught up with him.

In 2013, Danny was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, on his left temple. It was surgically removed by his dermatologist. One year later, he felt a small lump, about 4 inches below that spot, just in front of his ear. That’s when Danny was referred to The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

More than skin deep

Head and neck surgeon Lisa Shnayder, MD, performed a biopsy. It revealed Danny’s original squamous cell carcinoma had spread to a major salivary gland, his parotid gland, and several lymph nodes in his neck.

“Skin cancer is not as innocuous as people think,” says Dr. Shnayder. “Everyone knows melanoma can spread. But squamous cell carcinomas can also be aggressive.”

Squamous cell carcinoma is the 2nd most common skin cancer. It is primarily caused by a history of prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Dr. Shnayder took Danny’s case before the cancer center’s tumor board that meets weekly. A multidisciplinary team of surgical, medical and radiation oncologists discussed the diagnosis and recommended a course of action.

For Danny, the treatment plan included surgery to remove his entire left salivary gland, plus several lymph nodes in his neck. He would also need radiation.

Expert salivary gland surgery

Operating on the salivary gland involves many potential risks. Several nerves that control facial movement run in and around the gland. Damage to those nerves can lead to partial paralysis.

“It’s delicate work to save every branch of that facial nerve. That’s why we receive so many referrals from area dermatologists,” explains Dr. Shnayder. “Our physicians and nurses see these kinds of cases and perform these complex surgeries day in and day out. We’re trained to deliver state-of-the-art cancer care.”

“The surgery was extremely well-planned and performed by Dr. Shnayder,” Danny says. “There was no damage to my nerves. And the scar is hardly visible.”

Precise radiation to the head and neck

Next, Danny met with radiation oncologist Xinglei Shen, MD. According to Dr. Shen, Danny’s prognosis was good, “His surgery went very well, but there is always the chance that cancer cells are still present in the neck and can spread. We offer radiation to prevent further recurrence.”

Before treatment could begin, Dr. Shen and his team designed a personalized, mesh facial mask for Danny. The mask guides radiation beams to areas where cancer might return and protects healthy areas. Danny wore the mask during 30 rounds of radiation.

Radiation to the head and neck comes with a number of possible side effects. Danny experienced some of the most common issues. “For a couple months, everything tasted horrible,” Danny says. “I drank Muscle Milk® and soda to keep my weight up. And I learned to love ramen noodles. I also had a little bit of mouth dryness. Today, I hardly have any issues at all.”

Lymphedema prevention

Having lymph nodes surgically removed can also lead to complications. That’s why Danny was referred to occupational therapist and lymphedema specialist Laine Bowman, MA, OTR, CLT-LANA.

“Lymph nodes move fluid through the body. When they’re removed, the body’s natural pathways are gone. Swelling or lymphedema can result,” Bowman says.

Patients like Danny benefit from a light circular massage to the affected area. This encourages the fluid to find new routes. “My goal is to help patients feel more like they did before surgery,” adds Bowman.

Road trip

After his 6 weeks of radiation concluded, Danny set off on a soul-searching solo journey to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Throughout cancer treatment, he hadn’t missed a day of work as cohost of “Between the Lines” on WHB 810 AM. Now it was finally time for peace and reflection.

When he returned home, Danny turned the odyssey into his first book, “Leaving Cancer for the Circus.” It covers his early life, his journalism degree from the University of Kansas, his experiences in the broadcasting business, and of course, his cancer story.

The book has a happy ending because on July 29, 2015, Danny and his wife, Jayne Siemens, received the news they had been hoping for: Danny was cancer-free.

Ounce of prevention

These days, Danny tells his radio audience to start every day with sunscreen. “I use SPF 20 every morning. And when I golf, I put on so much sunscreen I look like a mime,” he says.

Dr. Shnayder recommends sunscreen for all age groups, but says it’s critical for children and teens. “Skin cancers generally appear later in life, but they are often due to sun exposure during the teenage years,” she points out. “Limit your time in the sun, use sunscreen and wear protective clothing and a hat.”

Speaking of hats, Danny keeps 3 in his car. A baseball cap for mild days. A floppy Australian-style hat for hot days. And a bigger hat with a huge brim and long back flap for extreme conditions.

“This has been a big adjustment for me. I was not really cognizant of how careful I should be in the sun,” he admits.

By sharing his story, Danny is helping thousands of area sports fans and book readers discover the importance of cancer prevention and detection. Next time you leave the house, put on a hat for Danny.

Request your appointment today.

To make an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, call 913-588-1227.

As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

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