A dental hygienist saved her mother’s life after spotting a melanoma on the back of her arm – sparking calls for medical professionals to undergo skin cancer detection training.
Joanne Elmes referred her mother, Julie, to the doctors when she noticed a change in one of her moles. After sending off photos of the blemish, she was given a two-week urgent referral where it was safely removed.
This came just weeks after Joanne completed a training programme in early melanoma and skin cancer detection, called Masced Pro.
Set up by charity Skcin, the aim was to provide medical and healthcare professionals with an effective tool to recognise melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
‘I had seen a mole on the back of my mother’s arm that looked different,’ said Joanne.
‘After saying to her that it looks suspicious, I carried out a closer inspection. It was approximately 6mm in diameter, with irregular borders and a variation of colours. I felt it looked just like the photographed examples of superficial spreading malignant melanoma given to me in my training with Skcin.
‘I took a photo of it next to a tape measure. My mother uploaded the photograph on an e-consult form to the doctors. She got a two-week urgent referral and had it removed by dermatology.
‘It has now been confirmed to be an “in situ” melanoma and, therefore, has thankfully not spread. Risk factors included: sun bathing when she was young (wearing olive oil and lemon juice on her skin), sunbed use in her early 20s, and living in New Zealand for four years.
‘I’ve also encouraged my dad to go to the doctors. He now has a two-week referral as he has a suspicious lesion on his foot! I’ve also done previous referrals as a dental therapist before the training.’
The power of prevention
Marie Tudor, CEO of charity Skcin, believes the dental profession is ‘vital’ in the battle of cancer prevention.
She said: ‘Supporting all healthcare professionals to embed prevention and early detection within their practice is critical to reducing the soaring rates of skin cancer in the UK.
‘The Masced Pro training programme strongly supports the call by Public Health England (PHE) to look beyond the obvious NHS workforce to see how other professionals can help prevent illness and promote wellbeing. This recent case study highlights the power of prevention.
‘The dental sector has a vital role to play. We keep to the training adopted by practices and dental professionals nationwide.’
Joanne encourages other dental professionals to undertake the training, saying she genuinely feels this has saved her mum’s life.
‘I have had a solid foundation training from my undergraduate BSc dental hygiene and therapy teaching for oral lesions and skin lesions. But the Masced Pro training built on that,’ she added.
‘It had so many pictures to allow you to repeat and get used to what you were analysing when it comes to lesions. I’m so thankful for this training. I genuinely feel this has saved my mum’s life before the lesion had chance to spread.
‘I am not only grateful on a personal level, but also on a professional level. Since carrying out this training I have been educating patients. It is fundamental as a dental therapist to promote prevention in all elements of patient care. I am also more confident in referring patients to the appropriate channels to get suspicious skin lesions checked.’
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