Melanoma screening pilot off to a flying start

Posted on in Community services, Services, The trust

Teesside patients with possible skin cancers are being offered an express screening opportunity without having to go into hospital.

Patient Poppy Bowyer with consultant dermatologist Dr Rob Ellis

Patient Poppy Bowyer with consultant dermatologist Dr Rob Ellis at the melanoma screening clinic at the One Life Centre, Middlesbrough

Clinicians are seeing an alarming rise in the number of melanoma skin cancers across the UK and in the North East in particular. As a way to speed up the referral and treatment process, a clinic held at the One Life Centre on Linthorpe Road in Middlesbrough has been introduced.

A team of consultant dermatologists, GPs specialising in dermatology and skin cancer nurses at One Life have set up a rapid system whereby patients are seen within two weeks. The team then take a close looking at the suspicious lesions and, if necessary, treat immediately with surgery.

Consultant dermatologist Dr Rob Ellis works at both One Life and The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. He said “The benefit of setting up the clinic at One Life is that if the lesion needs treating we can take it out  that day and then bring the patient back within two weeks to hear their results.

“If a patient is worried about the lesion, it reduces the time they have to wait on the results because they are seen quickly, treated quickly and get the results all within a maximum period of a month.”

Poppy Bowyer was one of the first patients to use the new screening service and was very impressed. The 24 year-old from Middlesbrough noticed a freckle or mole get a bit darker and went to see her GP, who referred her to the One Life clinic.

Poppy, a volunteer with the Wildlife Trust, said: “I was asked to attend less than a fortnight after the GP visit and the staff and doctor were great. The doctor studied the mole microscopically and suggested, as a precaution, that it was removed. The result came back clear which was a great relief as my family has a history of skin cancer.

“It was an extremely quick process and the staff were brilliant. It was the best thing I’ve done. After spotting the change in colour of the mole it would have been silly not to go to my GP when the consequences of not going could be so much more detrimental.”

Dr Ellis said: “The rise in melanomas appears to be linked to exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) and everyone should protect themselves against summer sun, especially between 11am and 2 or 3pm, with sun cream with a 30 SPF and a UVA four star rating.

“The proliferation of sunbed usage, especially in the North East is another contributory risk factor. If you are going to use a sunbed be sensible and ask the shop owner what wattage are the bulbs, as the safe and legal limit is 0.3 watts but some have been reported as being four times over the limit at 1.2 watts”.

Dr Ellis added: “We are working closely with plastic surgeons and cancer nurse specialists at The James Cook University Hospital, so this clinic is the beginning of a different way of working in combining the services into one skin cancer service.”