Melanoma: More Than Just Skin Deep
Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, yet most Australians believe that melanoma is a simple skin cancer that is only “skin deep”. The unfortunate reality is that of the nearly 12,000 Australians diagnosed with melanoma each year, a staggering 1,450 people will die. Melanoma is the most common cancer in Australian men and women under 45 years of age, however the incidence is highest in males over 60 years.
It is important that you are aware of what you can do to reduce your risk of developing advanced melanoma. The best treatment for melanoma is prevention and early detection and the following provides answers to some common questions people have about skin examinations.
Have You Had Your Skin Checked Lately?
By undergoing a routine skin check with your treating doctor and monitoring your skin for any changes (such as itchy sores, skin lesions, lumps, unusual growths, changes to moles) you can dramatically reduce your risk of developing advanced melanoma. If detected early, up to 90% of melanomas can be cured with surgical removal of the melanoma and some of the surrounding normal skin.
Skin Checks – What’s Involved?
A skin examination is non-invasive and involves a doctor reviewing your skin for skin cancer. For a more accurate analysis some doctors use a magnifying device called a “dermatoscope”. Any suspicious or unusual changes will be more easily reviewed and advised of treatment with the doctor or another specialised skin doctor or dermatologist for follow up care.
How Often Should I Have My Skin Examined?
It is important that you regularly check your own skin for any changes – try to get familiar with any moles or freckles and monitor them for any changes. It is also important your consult your doctor for regular checkups at least once per year.
Where to go for a Skin Check?
The identification of skin cancers is a specialised skill and it is important that you consult a doctor or dermatologist who is experienced in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of skin cancers, including melanoma. New and improved techniques and treatments are continually being developed and it is important that the doctor you consult is aware of all available options. If you are unsure of how to locate an appropriately qualified doctor to consult for a skin examination, contact Melanoma Patients Australia on 1300 88 44 50.
Advanced Melanoma - Support and Information
If you are diagnosed with a more advanced melanoma, there are services and support programs through Melanoma Patients Australia (“MPA”) which is the only patient driven non-profit organisation in Australia that offers a national network of support and information about melanoma prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment.
MPA also offers the Danger Sun Overhead program which was developed by Jo Crotty following the death of her husband, Rohan, at age 43 from melanoma. Danger Sun Overhead is nationally recognised as a leading skin cancer education program and is available for workplaces (particularly outdoor industries), community organisations and schools.