Jeff Rossen’s cancer diagnosis: How innovative surgery and early detection is saving lives

How was Jeff's life saved? Early detection. The survival rate for Jeff’s type of cancer is 99% if caught early.


It's a health battle he's fought before and won. Our Chief National Consumer Correspondent Jeff Rossen is opening up about the new obstacle he's facing in hope we can all learn something from it.


While at a routine dermatology appointment, his doctor decided to take a biopsy of a mole on Jeff’s forehead. One that’s been there for as long as he could remember and never seemed to be of concern.

But when the results came back, Jeff got the phone call: "It’s melanoma. Your melanoma is back."

Jeff has fought this before in 2013. He was diagnosed with melanoma from a mole on his stomach. Jeff's wife spotted it and forced him to take the time to make an appointment and get it checked. Back then, they did surgery and removed it all. But this time, it’s bigger and scarier. Now, Jeff will undergo Mohs surgery, which is the most effective way to get all the cancer.

Watch the video above to hear Jeff's story. While watching, think about your own marks and moles on your body.

How was Jeff's life saved? Early detection. The survival rate for Jeff’s type of cancer is 99% if caught early. The Skin Cancer Foundation says there are three things you should look for when looking for any skin cancer:

  1. New: New moles and blemishes that have popped up.
  2. Changing: Check to see if your moles and marks have changed in color, shape, size or texture.
  3. Unusual: Look for spots that have an unusual outline or edge. If they hurt, itch, crust or bleed for more than 3 weeks, that's a warning sign as well.

Click here for a step-by-step self-exam.

Warning Signs

The "ABCDE"s and the "Ugly Duckling" sign can help you detect melanoma as well. Here are some examples as a general reference to illustrate what that is, courtesy of the Skin Cancer Foundation:

A is for Asymmetry: Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.

Rossen Reports

B is for Border: Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.

Rossen Reports

C is for Color: Multiple colors are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colors red, white or blue may also appear.

Rossen Reports

D is for Diameter or Dark: While it's ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, it's a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 mm, or ¼ inch in diameter) or larger. Some experts say it is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.

Diameter or dark
Rossen Reports

E is for Evolving: Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.

Rossen Reports

Ugly Duckling: Most normal moles on your body resemble one another, while melanomas stand out in comparison. This highlights the importance of not just checking for irregularities, but also comparing any suspicious spot to surrounding moles to determine whether it looks different from its neighbors. These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Also, isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.

Ugly duckling
Rossen Reports

What can you do?

Examining your body once a month is important. When in doubt, ask your primary doctor about a spot that concerns you. They’ll most likely refer you to a dermatologist. Follow your instincts; if you see something that you know isn’t right, book an appointment with a dermatologist right away. Typically, you should see a dermatologist once a year for a professional skin exam.

Nonmelanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can look different. Click on those links to learn more about those as well.

Jeff wants to give a big thank you to his amazing medical team of Dr. Vitaly Terushkin, Dr. Mitchell Mandel and Dr. Cap Lesesne who was caring and skilled through this entire process. Thank you for all you do.

Mohs surgery is a delicate and intricate treatment. While many physicians may perform Mohs surgery, board certification is not required. The American College of Mohs Surgery (ACMS) has approved fellowship training programs that are significantly more rigorous than other Mohs programs. Fellows of this program are said to have the highest standard of quality and competency. If you’re interested in choosing a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon, you can search for one in your area with this directory. Here’s more information as well.