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Dermatologist saves South Florida man’s life with early diagnosis of lung cancer

Skin reveals many things

Dr. Brittany Smirnov receives national Patient Care Hero award

Rosemont, Ill. (Oct. 27, 2020) – The American Academy of Dermatology named board-certified dermatologist Brittany Smirnov, DO, FAAD, a Patient Care Hero for her role in diagnosing and treating a patient with stage IV metastatic lung cancer.

When South Florida resident Richard Danzer developed a cyst on his back that grew larger and more painful over time, he saw his general practitioner who referred him to Dr. Smirnov for her dermatology expertise. After examining Danzer and hearing his medical history, Dr. Smirnov suspected the cyst was a sign of a more serious condition. She ordered a chest CT scan, which confirmed a lung cancer diagnosis.

After multiple radiation treatments and chemotherapy, Danzer is now cancer free and sees Dr. Smirnov for routine skin checks every three months.

“I wasn’t expecting such a dire discovery from a dermatology appointment. It’s a scary diagnosis with intense treatment, but Dr. Smirnov has been a bright spot during this trying time. Had it not been for her, I would not be here today,” said Danzer.

Many people with lung cancer do not experience symptoms such as chest pain and wheezing until later stages of the disease, which often delays diagnosis and treatment. Danzer’s cyst was the clue that led to a timely diagnosis and helped him receive the life-saving care he needed.

“I want to change peoples’ lives for the better, which sometimes starts with the diagnosis of a serious disease, as was the case with Richard,” said Dr. Smirnov. “I’m proud of the cross-disciplinary team that sprang into action to find a life-saving treatment that worked.”

Up to 12 percent of lung cancers are accompanied by skin abnormalities, according to research published in Case Reports in Oncology. Dermatologists are uniquely trained to examine the skin as a window to underlying conditions such as cancers that can cause bumps, dryness, itchiness, scaling, and redness.

“Skin conditions can be a symptom of a more serious medical problem, so it’s crucial for dermatologists to ascertain their underlying cause,” said board-certified dermatologist Bruce H. Thiers, MD, FAAD, president of the AAD. “Dr. Smirnov’s work in identifying a patient’s lung cancer exemplifies the significant role dermatologists play delivering life-saving care as members of a comprehensive health care team.”

The AAD created the Patient Care Heroes program to recognize physicians who transform patients’ lives by utilizing their expertise and collaborating with other physicians to treat serious skin disease.

To learn more about Dr. Smirnov’s work with Richard Danzer, visit www.aad.org/skinserious/stories-richard-danzer.


About SkinSerious
SkinSerious is a campaign by the American Academy of Dermatology that highlights dermatologists’ role as partners in the health care system, providing expert care for serious conditions. To learn more, visit SkinSerious.org.

About the AAD
Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin) or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).