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Stacey’s Melanoma Story – An Unexpected Diagnosis

By | Cancer, Skin, Women's Health | No Comments

An Unexpected Diagnosis

When Stacey was just 28, she was diagnosed with Melanoma.

Finding the melanoma wasn’t supposed to happen, but due to a series of events Stacey is lucky it was found in such early stages.

“I booked my husband in for a mole check as one of his footy team mates was diagnosed with terminal cancer from a melanoma” Stacey recalls. “Unfortunately, (well very fortunately) my husband couldn’t make the appointment at short notice so instead of cancelling the appointment I decided to get my moles checked.”

stacey-murphy-healthmint-melanomaStacey was seen by Dr Paul Tescher who did a full skin check – checking every mole on her body. “He was concerned about a small mole, only 3mm in diameter that I thought looked just like a freckle”. A couple of days later the conspicuous mole was removed and sent off for testing.

“It was Sunday afternoon and my husband and I were shopping at Fountain Gate when I received a call from Dr Paul’s Clinic”. Stacey was asked to attend the clinic immediately. “Upon this phone call my husband and I knew the mole must of been cancerous and our legs went to jelly.”

Dr Paul broke the news to Stacey that the mole had tested positive to melanoma. The cancer was spreading across the surface of Stacey’s skin and towards her bloodstream and the entire circumference of the mole tested positive to melanoma. However due to the early diagnosis, “he was extremely positive and reassuring that I would return to full health.”

Once Stacey was given her options for the removal of the melanoma, Dr Paul was able to undertake the procedure.

“The idea of having cancer in my body was terrifying so I wanted to ensure it was gone as quick as possible.”

The procedure to remove the cancer took place the next day and 1cm was removed around the original incision. A hole about the size of a 20cent piece was cut to create a flap in the skin to stretch and cover the hole. Stacey received a total of 21 stitches. This was then sent off for testing – and luckily came back with the all clear and no further traces of melanoma.

stacey-murphy-healthmint-melanoma

A family history of melanoma is apparent in Stacey’s family, with a few of her Mother’s 6 siblings being diagnosed later in life. “They were definitely surprised with my diagnosis,” Stacey claims. “I have two siblings myself and both are blonde with fair skin, while I am a brunette with olive skin. Call me naive, but I thought they would be more at risk than myself!”

“Like most Australians, I love being outdoors and soaking up the UV rays, but we need to realise that without the proper skin protection, this can come at a price.” Stacey still enjoys summer and the outdoors but now uses a 50+ sunscreen any time she heads outside.

“The diagnosis changed my outlook on life. I try not to stress the small stuff, and I take very little for granted. I wanted to share my story to encourage people of all ages to get their skin regularly checked, and to also push the use of sun protection for themselves and their families.”

stacey-murphy-malenoma-scar

“I know have a big beautiful scar on my arm which I wear with pride. It is a reminder not only to myself, but to all that know me to Slip, Slop, Slap!”

 

Thank you to Stacey for giving her permission to publish her story and her voice to help raise awareness about the importance of getting your skin checked.

If you are concerned about any unusual spots, freckles or moles, book an appointment to have your skin checked by clicking here

You can read more about our skin checks and mole removal here

If you would like more information on melanoma and the signs and symptoms to look out for then read our other articles:

Melanoma Symptoms

Skin Cancer Facts

Summer Safe Skin – What you should know about skin cancer

Skin cancer, skin checks and moles – oh my!

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here

Melanoma Symptoms

By | Cancer, Skin | No Comments

What is Melanoma, What are the Symptoms of Melanoma?

 

 

Fast and scary facts on melanoma

  • Melanoma is Australia’s national cancer
  • Melanoma kills more young Australians than any other type of cancer
  • 1 person EVERY 5 hours will die from melanoma in Australia
  • Estimated 1,905 people died from melanoma in 2018
  • Estimated over 14,000 will be diagnosed in 2019

(https://melanoma.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics)

Melanoma has stages…and types

There are five stages of melanoma, and they range in severity from 0 to IV. Each stage is based on characteristics such as the ulceration, the thickness of the tumour and if lymph nodes or organs are affected. Once the melanoma is diagnosed, the stage it is in will guide the treatment.

Check out https://www.melanoma.org.au/understanding-melanoma/stages-of-melanoma/ for their definitions and treatments for each stage.

Symptoms of melanoma that are hidden in plain sight (!) The hidden threat

Lumps beneath the skin

These are called nodular melanomas and can occur anywhere on the skin. They are particularly dangerous because they grow into the skin much faster than they change dimensions on the skin surface. These can be very tricky to notice before they spread.

Under the nails

As well as palms of the hands and the soles of feet.

“Age spots”

Watch out for those spots you already have that you think are changing over time because you are just ‘ageing’. Think again and have them checked.

Changes in your scalp

These are so dangerous because if you have a full head of hair, the spots are not in plain sight.

The groin and more!

Areas that never see the sun are still at risk of developing melanoma

Vision changes

Eye melanoma may not produce any symptoms, but any changes in vision should be seen by a doctor immediately

Check out and learn your ABCDEs

abcde-melanoma-signs

A is for Asymmetrical – moles with irregular shapes and that have two very different halves

B is for Border (irregular) – notched, scalloped or irregular borders

C is for Colour (changes in) – growths that may have many colours or an uneven distribution of colours

D is for Diameter – look for moles that are greater than about 6mm in diameter

E is for Evolving – always look out for changes over time. Ones that grow, change in shape and colour, or begin to itch or bleed

Treatment options for melanoma

Treatment for melanoma will depend on the following:

  • The stage of the disease
  • The location of the cancer
  • The severity of the symptoms
  • Your general health and wishes

Treatment may involved the following:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Any of these treatment methods are invasive and if waited until too late they have no guarantee that they will be successful and carry many risks and side affects.

I want to be proactive in looking after my skin – how do I prevent melanoma?

In Australia it’s near impossible to not be exposed to the sun at some point in the day. It is still important to get some UV exposure in skin-water-summer-tan-healthmintorder to take in and absorb Vitamin D which is crucial to your health. However it is recommended to do this in the earlier hours of the day and in the evening when the sun is not at its strongest.

  • Avoid the sun in the middle of the day (generally 10am-4pm) which is when it is strongest and you are more likely to get sunburnt.
  • Wear sunscreen all year round and include it into your morning routine.
  • Avoid tanning beds – they emit UV rays and increase your risk of skin cancer
  • Get to know the skin you’re in – examine your skin regularly for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, bumps, birthmarks and freckles. Be sure you don’t neglect between your toes, the soles your feet and your genitals!

skin-sunscreen-healthmint-protect

Are you frightened by the information above? Terrified by the facts you didn’t realise about melanoma? Now is the time to get your skin checked. Book an appointment online here or call (03) 5611 3365

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Acne

By | Skin | No Comments

The Causes of Acne and What You Can Do About It

Acne is a common condition, but it is a medical issue that can range from mild to severe. While not dangerous, acne can leave sufferers with low self-esteem and cause long-term issues such as scarring. It’s not always just a matter of washing your face – acne has many causes and it can be difficult to budge. Here are some facts about acne and what you can do to treat it.

What is acne?

Our skin is covered in pores that connect to oil glands under the surface. Follicles connect the glands to the pores. When the pores become blocked, oil (or sebum) builds up under the skin. Acne is a chronic and inflammatory skin condition. Acne can come in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts and nodules. It is most often seen on the face, shoulders, back, neck chest and upper arms.

Acne often comes during puberty due to changes in hormones and the activation of sebaceous glands, but it can come at any age. It affects both males and females. Acne is not dangerous, but it can leave scars and be traumatic for people who are concerned about acne’s effect on their appearance

What causes acne?

The basic cause of acne is blocked pores. However, what causes the pores to become blocked is slightly more complicated. The glands that produce oil are stimulated by hormones. When the gland becomes blocked, the surrounding area can become infected and then swollen. The bacteria that contributes to acne is called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).

However, not all bacteria give people acne – one strain even helps keep skin acne free. Genetic factors can also increase the risk of acne. Other factors that can cause or increase the likelihood of acne include the menstrual cycle, anxiety and stress, oil-based cosmetics, squeezing pimples and sweating.

How is acne treated?

Acne has a number of treatments ranging from mild to very strong, depending on how severe and persistent the acne is. There are a number of home remedies that can be tried, although for most options the research shows limited effect. Changing diet (especially increasing vitamins A, E and zinc, or switching to low GI),using tea tree oil, the topical application of green tea, and moisturisers (especially containing witch hazel or 10% aloe vera) are common home remedies from mild to moderate acne.

Over the counter medications are usually the next step, and are available from the supermarket or pharmacy. The most effective contain ingredients such as benzyl peroxide, salicylic acid, Retin-A, Azelaic acid and Resorcinol. People with sensitive skin should use cream-based instead of alcohol-based gels (which can be drying). People with acne should start with a lower concentration as these medicated preparations can cause skin irritation. The benefits are usually seen after six to eight weeks.

For acne that does not respond to these methods, the help of a specialist will be required. Your GP will be the first stop, so they can make some suggestions or refer you on to a dermatologist if necessary. The most intensive treatments include corticosteroid injection, oral antibiotics, hormonal birth control, topical antimicrobials and isoretinoin. These treatments need to be taken under the strict supervision of a medical professional.

Managing acne from home.

Wherever possible, prevention is the best option for people with acne. Some tips to avoid breakouts include:

  • Don’t pop, squeeze or disturb pimples
  • Avoid washing your face too frequently, and use mild soap and warm water
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before putting products on your skin, and avoid touching your face as much as possible
  • Clean things that touch your face such as your glasses, phone and razor
  • Loose clothing can let the skin breathe and reduce pimples on the body
  • Clean hair, free of oily products like cocoa butter, will be less likely to cause acne
  • Be conscious of the cosmetics you use, and remove makeup before bed
  • Avoid sweating too much wherever possible

There are many options for people who are looking to manage acne, but if you can’t get it under control from home, you should talk to your GP and get professional help. Acne is a very common condition, but it can be hard to shift. If you’re concerned about your acne, have a chat with a medical professional and start the journey towards clear skin.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here

Skin Cancer Facts

By | Body Systems, Cancer, Skin | No Comments

It’s beginning to heat up, and Australians are eager to get out into the sun. We all know that skin cancer is a problem, but many people show a concerning disregard of sun safety. Australia has some of the highest melanoma rates in the world – two out of every three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before they are 70. It’s clearly an issue we need to address as a nation. Here are some facts about skin cancer that serve as a reminder to take sun safety seriously.

Melanoma is very common – and it can be deadly. Melanoma is the third most common cancer in men and women. It accounts for only 2% of diagnosed skin cancers, but it is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths. In the last 20 years, melanoma rates have doubled and are still on the rise. That being said, if melanoma is detected early it can often be completely cured with just a simple procedure.

But melanoma isn’t the only concern. Skin cancer occurs from damage to skin cells, and there are three main types. Along with melanoma, you could be at risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. While melanoma is the leading cause of skin cancer death, there are still significant numbers of deaths due to non-melanoma skin cancer.

It’s not worth it for a tan. Tanned skin used to be considered healthy, but actually a tan is a sign that you have been exposed to enough UV radiation to damage your skin. Many people ignore sun safety in favour of tanning for beauty-related reasons, but tanning can also cause wrinkles, sagging, and yellow or brown discolouration on the skin. A fake tan is ok from a skin cancer point of view, but don’t forget that it won’t actually protect you from the sun – you can still get sunburn.

You and your doctor make the best team. You should take time to get familiar with how your skin looks to make it easier to identify any changes. There are many great resources around to help you understand what you’re looking for. The Cancer Councils website is a great place to start. They suggest you keep a close eye out for:

  • any crusty, non-healing sores
  • small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
  • new spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months.

If you notice any changes or haven’t had a skin check recently, you should see your GP to get your skin assessed. You will need to go to a skin specialist, who will examine your skin to identify any potential areas of concern.  Keeping up regular checks, both at home and every year or so with a professional, will help make sure your skin isn’t preparing a nasty surprise.

We all love the sun, but with summer on the way make sure you protect yourself and your loved ones. Team up with your doctor to ensure that if there is a problem, you’ll pick up on it early. Sunburn is a serious issue, so don’t forget to enjoy the sunshine – but stay safe.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here
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Rosacea: HealthMint Skin Series

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What You Need to Know About Rosacea

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a kind of skin inflammation, almost always on the face. It is not contagious, and the cause is unknown. Rosacea is enlarged capillaries (tiny blood vessels on the surface of the skin) which give a permanent flush to the face, and can also cause yellow-headed pimples.

Some things that can trigger rosacea or make symptoms worse are:

  • Overheating (especially at night)
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Hot drinks
  • Spicy food
  • Overexposure to sunlight
  • Some moisturisers and skin care products.

Who can get rosacea?

Men and women can get rosacea. Most people are diagnosed with the condition between the ages of 30-50. The most common first sign is frequent blushing or being flushed in the face. As the capillaries enlarge over time, the redness can become permanent. Men with rosacea can sometimes have a secondary condition called rhinophyma, which causes the nose to become enlarged and red.

As people get older, the symptoms of rosacea tend to get worse. There is no permanent cure for rosacea, although there are a number of treatment options.

How do you know if you’ve got rosacea?

The symptoms of rosacea include:

  • A permanent flush across the nose and cheeks
  • Redness resembling sunburn that doesn’t go away
  • Frequent blushing
  • A burning or stinging sensation
  • A rash on the face
  • Mildly swollen cheeks and nose
  • Enlarged visible capillaries
  • Painless lumps or pimples under the skin
  • red or irritated eyes or swollen eyelids.

What can you do to treat rosacea?

There is no single treatment for rosacea, and for many people treatment is focussed on managing symptoms. Some treatment options that might be prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist include:

  • Antibiotic- or azelaic acid-containing gels and creams
  • Antibiotic pills
  • Laser treatments to reduce the appearance of visible blood vessels
  • Surgery or laser therapy for enlarged noses
  • Non-irritating skin care products
  • Diathermy – a heat-generating device is used to treat damaged blood vessels
  • Frequent use of a gentle sunscreen
  • Avoiding known triggers such as alcohol, spicy food and anxiety

Sometimes people with rosacea have symptoms in their eyes, which requires specialised treatment by an ophthalmologist, and a dermatologist can help with symptoms that occur on the skin. The first step to getting checked should be to visit a trusted GP, who can help diagnose your condition, begin treatments and refer you to specialists if necessary.

Rosacea can be unsightly and uncomfortable, so it’s a great idea to get it looked at before it becomes a bigger problem. Looking after your skin is important to your health and well-being, and beginning a treatment plan can be as simple as having a chat with your GP.

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Psoriasis: HealthMint Skin Series

By | Body Systems, Skin | No Comments

What You Need to Know About Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that can be uncomfortable and make people unhappy with the appearance of their skin. Because it often comes and goes, many people just put up with the symptoms. While the condition isn’t curable, it can be managed with help from your GP.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition where the life cycle of skin cells is sped up, which causes cells to build up thickly on the skin’s surface. The patches of skin that have an excess skin build-up can form into scales or red patches. These areas tend to be itchy and uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful. It is most often found on the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp, though it can appear on any part of the skin. Some people get a few small patches of scaling that look almost like dandruff, while others get major eruptions that cover a large area of skin.

Psoriasis is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression. It also causes a particular type of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis, which can sometimes occur without a noticeable skin irritation.

Who can get psoriasis?

People of any age can get the skin condition, from small babies right up to elderly people. However, most people are diagnosed in their early adult years. Men and women have almost equal instances of psoriasis. All people groups can get it, although it does occur more frequently depending on racial background.   

How long does psoriasis last?

Psoriasis is a chronic condition, which means the potential for the irritating skin patches is probably not going to go away any time soon. The irritated areas themselves will probably come and go.

How do you know if you’ve got psoriasis?

The signs and symptoms are different for everyone, but here are some common identifiers  you should look out for:

  • Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
  • Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
  • Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
  • Itching, burning or soreness
  • Swollen and stiff joints

If you develop a rash that doesn’t go away with an over-the-counter medication, psoriasis is one option your doctor might consider.

What can you do to treat psoriasis?

Because psoriasis currently has no cure, the aim is to improve the symptoms. With mild psoriasis, products are usually recommended or prescribed to be used on the skin, such as moisturisers, vitamin D preparations, or corticosteroid creams.  Ultraviolet light therapy is another way medical professionals can slow down the production of skin cells.

If your psoriasis is severe or not responding to other options, you might need oral or injected medication. You can work with your health professionals to manage your symptoms by giving up smoking, managing stress, regularly moisturising and following the treatment plan given to you by your doctor.

Skin conditions are almost always manageable, and you don’t have to put up with your symptoms. Get in touch with your GP if you think you might have psoriasis, and start yourself on a journey towards clear, healthy skin.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here
skin-series-eczema-healthmint

Eczema: What is it? HealthMint Skin Series

By | Children's Health, Skin | No Comments

Skin Series – All About Eczema

Skin is the largest organ in the body, and it works as a barrier to keep the body safe. When that barrier is broken, eczema can occur. Let’s look at what eczema is, how it occurs and steps you can take to avoid an eczema flareup.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis. It’s an irritating, and sometimes painful skin condition that occurs when the skins barrier becomes compromised. The skin becomes red, dry and itchy, and over time rough patches might develop. The most common areas to have an eczema flare-up include the creases of the elbows, behind the knees, across the ankles and sometimes on the face, ears and neck. There are many triggers that might cause eczema to flare up, and with careful observation most people are able to identify them to help manage their condition.

Who is Affected by Eczema?

Eczema can occur in people of any age, but it is most common in children. Around one in five children under 2 years old will have the condition. It can also occur in older children and adults, but for most people it improves with age. Even adult eczema normally goes away by middle age, although a small number of people might need to manage the condition for the rest of their lives.

What Causes Eczema?

We don’t really know why some people get eczema. Eczema seems to go along with other issues like allergies, hayfever and asthma, which appears to show that genetics influence the risk of someone developing eczema.

When the skin barrier is damaged, it allows moisture to evaporate and lets irritants and allergens past the skin. In turn, the skin releases chemicals that make the skin itchy, and scratching makes the skin release even more. That creates an irritating and painful cycle that makes the problem worse.

Known irritants that can trigger eczema include:

  • Dry skin
  • Infections
  • Chlorine from swimming pools
  • Sand (especially in sandpits)
  • Scratching
  • Sitting on grass
  • Chemical irritants like soap and perfumes
  • Changes in temperature
  • Pollen sensitivity

If a person has allergies, then coming into contact with allergens can cause eczema to occur. Constant exposure to water, soap, grease, food or chemicals can also damage the protective barrier function of the skin, which often causes eczema.

Sometimes because an allergic reaction to food and an eczema flare-up can happen around the same time, people assume that the food has caused the eczema, causing them to remove the food from their diet. In some cases, removing foods can help with eczema management but it should only be attempted under the supervision of a doctor.  More often, food issues are unrelated to eczema flare-ups and don’t need to be removed from the diet.

What Treatments are Available?

Unfortunately, eczema can’t be cured. However, it can be treated and managed. Staying away from allergens can help avoid flare-ups, and keeping the skin moisturised and protected can help stop the skin barrier from breaking. People with eczema need to work together with their doctor to identify triggers for their eczema, and work on minimising flare-ups.

People can help manage their own symptoms by:

  • Keeping baths and showers lukewarm
  • Moisturising every day, preferably within a few minutes of bathing
  • Wearing soft, natural fabrics
  • Using mild cleansers, preferably non-soap
  • Gently drying skin after bathing by patting or air-drying
  • Avoiding sudden changes of temperature
  • Using a humidifier when the weather is dry

Your doctor might prescribe:

  • Corticosteroid creams and ointments
  • Systemic corticosteroids
  • Antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals if a skin infection has occurred
  • Barrier repair moisturisers
  • Phototherapy – UV A or B light can be used to treat moderate dermatitis.

Managing eczema is an ongoing battle. Even adults who have outgrown childhood eczema can find their skin is easily irritated. Once an area of skin has healed, it still needs ongoing care to ensure the barrier stays intact. People who struggle with eczema need to be proactive, and work with their doctor to identify their triggers, alleviate their symptoms and prevent further breakouts. A cure isn’t currently available, but good skin management can free eczema sufferers from irritation and discomfort.

 

ASCIA Guide to eczema (atopic dermatitis) management:

Click Here

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Four Tests You Should Have Every Year

By | Body Systems, Cancer, General Wellbeing, Men's Health, Skin, Women's Health

Four Tests You Should Have Every Year

 

 

Many people avoid seeing the doctor until there is something obviously wrong. There is a huge need for preventative health measures, and early diagnosis is crucial in the successful treatment of many conditions.  A good GP will work with you to not only fix existing problems, but to prevent and identify possible areas of concern to make sure you are not only healthy now, but stay healthy for the future.

Here are four simple tests that you should have at least every year to make sure your body is functioning well.

Full Blood Tests

Your blood holds so many clues to your wellbeing, and if you don’t check you will never know. From potentially serious conditions like diabetes and cancer, to general fatigue that can come from low counts of vitamins and minerals in your blood – it’s best to find out. Your blood can give you an indication of your heart health and levels of cholesterol, and can give clues as to how your other organs are performing.

If you have any concerns about your health, talk to your doctor before the tests are ordered so they can advise you if it’s worth having some extra areas looked at. A follow-up appointment once the results come through is important as it gives your doctor the opportunity to address any concerns or send you for further tests if necessary.

Blood Pressure

If you have personal concerns about your blood pressure or any family history of unhealthy blood pressure you will need to be checked more often, but everyone should be checked at least yearly. While you can often get the tests done at a local chemist, making an appointment with your GP allows you to record your readings to notice any changes over time, to discuss what the numbers mean, and to be advised on whether any further action may be required.

“Down Under” tests – Prostate Checks, Mammograms, Colon Checks and Pap Smears

No one said they were fun, but on the other hand they are not as bad as you might imagine. Chat to your doctor about how often you should get these checks and what form they should take – your age and family history will determine how frequent they should be. For example, prostate health can sometimes be measured using a blood test, rather than the manual examination some people fear, and mammograms are not recommended for women under the age of 40. Regardless of the form these tests take, don’t let your fear of discomfort get in the way of routine checks that could save your life.

Skin Checks

Melanoma and other types of skin cancer are on the rise in Australia, and can usually be easily diagnosed by a specialist in a quick, non-invasive appointment. The specialist will look closely at your skin, paying special attention to any moles or spots you might have. Family history of skin cancer increases your risk of getting the same disease but even one bad sunburn over a lifetime has a similar increased risk. Early detection is vital for successful treatment, and many places even bulk bill their skin scans – so cost shouldn’t be a factor.

 

It’s important to find a GP who you have a good relationship with, who will work with you to guard your future health as well as treating your present concerns. Book an appointment to discuss what tests might be right for you, and don’t let nerves or apathy get the better of you. Your health is worth guarding, and a few simple tests could literally save your life.

 

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss your health ->

Summer-Safe Skin: What You Should Know About Skin Cancer

By | Cancer, Skin, Travel

Summer-Safe Skin: What You Should Know About Skin Cancer

 

 

It’s National Skin Cancer Action week! Did you know that two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70? Most skin cancers can be prevented by good sun protection, and early detection significantly decreases the chance that you will need surgery or that the cancer will progress. The Australian Cancer Council has released some basic ways that you can prevent and detect skin cancers.

Prevention

Australians have heard the “SunSmart” message and are usually good at applying it to our children. However, some lessons haven’t sunken in quite so well. Tanning for long hours in the sun is still a common sight, and sunburns are often treated as a joke instead of causing potentially serious long-term damage to the skin. In fact, a sunburn once every two years can triple your risk of developing a melanoma. It’s never too late to prevent further damage. The Cancer Council’s 5 forms of sun protection are:

  • slip on sun-protective clothing
  • slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • slap on a broad-brimmed hat
  • seek shade
  • slide on sunglasses.

Your summer can still be fun, but make sure your skin isn’t suffering for it.

Detection

Looking for skin cancer keeps you safer – early detection improves your chances that a relatively simple treatment can be used to fix a problem. Make a habit of doing regular self-checks of your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles. Getting to know your own skin and what is normal for you will make it much easier to detect any changes.

Remove all of your clothing and stand in good light, either using a mirror for hard-to-check areas or asking someone else to look for you. Don’t just focus on areas that see a lot of sun – sometimes skin cancers can grow in unexpected places, like the soles of the feet, under nails and between fingers and toes.

What are you looking for?

There are three main types of skin cancer- melanoma (including nodular melanoma), basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Each generally looks and behaves in a different way. As a rule, you can use the ABCD method for detecting changes:

  • A is for Asymmetry – Spots that aren’t symmetrical. Are both sides of the spot the same or is it an irregular shape?
  • B is for Border – A spot with a spreading or irregular edge (notched).
  • C is for Colour – Blotchy spots with a number of colours such as black, blue, red, white and/or grey.
  • D is for Diameter – Look for spots that are getting bigger

Some other considerations are moles that are new, increase in size, change colour, become raised; itch, tingle or bleed, or look different to your other moles.

If you do notice changes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have skin cancer – but it does mean that you should visit your GP to have them looked at further. You can also discuss your personal skin cancer risk and schedule regular skin checks.

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss your skin health –>

Skin cancer, skin checks and moles – oh my!

By | Cancer, Chronic Disease, Skin

Skin cancer, skin checks and moles – oh my! 

Why is skin cancer an issue?

  • 2/3 australians are diagnosed with skin cancer by 70!
  • More than 2000 people in Australia die from skin cancer each year and
  • The Cancer Council estimates that Australia spends more than $1 billion per year treating skin cancer, with costs increasing substantially over the past few years.

Preventing skin cancer

slip on sun-protective clothing, slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.

It’s just so easy to accidentally damage your skin. Even if you don’t intend to obtain a sun-tan, many Aussies often report that they have suntanned skin. This could be from very basic activities such as mowing your lawn, doing the gardening, having a barbecue, playing sports or going for a walk down the Berwick High Street! Even just passive recreation around the home can put you at risk of developing cancerous moles, if you don’t take proper steps to protect yourself.

It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.

How to perform a skin check on yourself

Getting to know your skin and picking up on changes is one of the keys to reducing your skin cancer risk. This is because skin cancers rarely hurt and are more frequently seen than felt.

To check your skin, do the following regularly:

  • Make sure you check your entire body as skin cancers can sometimes occur in parts of the body not exposed to the sun, for example soles of the feet, between fingers and toes and under nails.
  • Undress completely and make sure you have good light.
  • Use a mirror to check hard to see spots, like your back and scalp, or get a family member, partner or friend to check it for you.

 

What should you look for?

  • New spots
  • Changes to existing freckles or moles

There are three main types of skin cancer- melanoma (including nodular melanoma), basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma

Melanoma

 

  • Most deadly form of skin cancer.
  • If left untreated can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Appears as a new spot or an existing spot that changes in colour, size or shape.
  • Can appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun.

 

Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanoma

  • Grows quickly.
  • Looks different from common melanomas. Raised and even in colour.
  • Many are red or pink and some are brown or black.
  • They are firm to touch and dome-shaped.
  • After a while they begin to bleed and crust.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Most common, least dangerous form of skin cancer.
  • Red, pale or pearly in colour, appears as a lump or dry, scaly area.
  • May ulcerate or fail to completely heal.
  • Grows slowly, usually on areas that are often exposed to the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • A thickened, red scaly spot that may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate.
  • Grows over some months, usually on areas often exposed to the sun.
  • More likely to occur in people over 50 years of age.

 

 

 

What do I do if I notice changes?

Your GP will be able to assess any moles or changes in colour to anything on your skin and advise on the next steps. Your GP may recommend that they perform a mole removal procedure, or that they take a biopsy to check whether your mole is cancerous or not.

What is a mole removal procedure?

If your doctor does recommend a procedure, these can typically be performed by your GP in the treatment room of the medical centre. Usually the appointment would go for about half an hour, and involve the GP with the help of the practice nurse making you comfortable, applying anaesthetic and then removing or taking a biopsy of the area in question. You would then return for the follow up of results, and for the doctor to continue to monitor you.

What if I don’t want to or can’t do the skin check myself?

Your GP should be more than happy to perform a skin check for you. This is typically a half hour appointment, which involves your GP assessing all areas of your skin and examining any existing moles or freckles with a device called a dermatoscope.

HealthMint offers skin checks and mole removal in our practice located near the border of Berwick, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne. If in doubt – come on in for a skin check. We’ve had many experiences where people have come in for a completely unrelated issue and our doctors have picked up and removed cancerous moles. With summer approaching, now is the perfect time to have those moles or freckles looked at, it’s just not worth the risk of leaving them unchecked![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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