Skin checks save lives

IN THE space of two weeks, in almost identical circumstances, two patients went to the same doctor for the same routine skin examination. They came out with the same diagnosis, and the events that followed saved both their lives.

Separately Peter Parker, 45, and Brian Scarce, 48, each decided to have a skin examination at Gladstone Medical Centre. Mr Scarce was diagnosed with a large melanoma behind his knee and an invasive basal cell carcinoma on his shoulder. After his initial shock he underwent surgery to remove the two growths, which were both found to be malignant.

Mr Parker went to the centre a week later for a routine skin examination. He was diagnosed with a melanoma on his neck and a BCC on his shoulder, each requiring surgery. Fortunately for the “lucky” pair, both melanomas are level I and level II and are early, so the prognosis is excellent for long-term survival, according to Dr Stephen Rigby.

“The almost exact diagnosis of the two unrelated cases within a week of each other is freakish but only demonstrates the importance of regular screening and early diagnosis,” Dr Rigby said. “I hope the bizarre coincidence of these cases encourages the public to have regular screening for early detection. It is paramount that the general population realise that the survival from melanoma is still early detection, diagnosis and removal of the malignancy with a wide-margin excision.

WURDONG Heights resident Brian Scarce has had regular skin checks every year for the past five years. On those occasions he has had small “bits” removed, all of which proved to be non-malignant. That was until a few weeks ago when he went to the Gladstone Medical Centre for his regular check and the doctor found two problems – a malignant melanoma on his leg and a basal cell carcinoma on his shoulder. Thankfully, both were found early enough and removed, a procedure that saved his life.

PETER PARKER FIRST NOTICED A SMALL BLACK MARK ON HIS NECK ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO. He didn’t think a great deal about it and wasn’t too concerned. But the mark started to grow about four years ago and took on a shape something like Australia. Then Tasmania popped up, and then the two marks joined.

“A couple of weeks ago, I was heading to the cinema to check movie times and walked past the Gladstone Medical Centre. I had been a little worried about a skin tag which had grown in my ear, so

I went in and made an appointment,” he said. “I hadn’t even at that stage given much thought to the mark on my neck.”

Dr Stephen Rigby examined the ear, but became much more interested in Mr Parker’s Australia shaped mark on his neck. Two weeks later, the mark was removed and found to be a melanoma. Dr

Rigby also found an invasive basal cell carcinoma – another form of skin cancer – on Peter’s shoulder, and removed that.

“It’s all happened so quickly,” he said. “And it’s taught me a lot. The main thing is that we just don’t take enough care out in the sun.”