Before the start of summer each year, the Cancer Council Australia and the Australasian College of Dermatologists come together for National Skin Cancer Action Week (17-23 November).
Skin Cancer Action Week raises awareness about the risks of exposure to UV radiation, the need for sun protection and early skin cancer detection.
With two in three Australians diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70, the action week is an important reminder to use sun protection and the importance of early skin cancer detection for all Australians.
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. There are three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
The highest reported rates of melanoma in the world are in Australia and New Zealand. 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.
Amanda shares her father’s fight with melanoma
Programmed Skilled Workforce Regional Manager Amanda Logan lost her father, Ron, at age 71 to Stage four Metastatic Melanoma in July 2018.
Somewhat typical of the era he grew up in, Amanda recounted that her Dad was not that vigilant when it came to sun protection. ‘He would often be outside, either gardening, mowing the lawn or cleaning the pool, without a shirt or hat on’.
Ron didn’t start getting skin checks until he was 65. Over the following years, he would have many moles cut out, including one large mole on his back which resulted in 24 internal and 14 external stitches.
March 2017, he started to have some other health concerns. Following tests, a CT scan showed cancer in multiple areas, including his lymph nodes. In a subsequent surgery, they would remove many of his lymph nodes and out of the 17 removed, 14 had cancer.
‘They believed that the cancer might have spread as a result of the first operation on Dad’s back. The terrifying thing is that it only takes a cell or two like something the size of a grain of sand for melanoma to spread through the body.’
‘We had six months where he was clear, before December 2017 when we found out it was in his muscles and started a new treatment called immunotherapy. We were fortunate to have 16 months with Dad from diagnosis, and made sure they were good ones with lots of memories,’ Amanda said.
Amanda did regular skin checks before Ron’s diagnosis and has had three moles cut out herself; fortunately non-cancerous. However, the experience with her Dad did shake her.
‘I understand the fear around getting checked as you just don’t want to hear that there is something to be concerned about. However, early detection is so important in terms of treatment. Even if you are uncertain, it’s always worth getting it checked by a health professional’.
Get checked and stay sun safe!
This Skin Cancer Action Week, we encourage everyone to get a skin check with their local GP.
The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death. Check out this handy guide from the Cancer Council on how to check your skin and what to look out for.
If you find a spot that you aren’t sure about, your local GP should be your next point of call! They can advise if it needs further investigation, as well as provide information about your level of risk and advice on early detection.
Remember, most skin cancers can be prevented by the use of good sun protection. When outdoors, always:
- 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.
Programmed is a leading Staffing and Maintenance organisation, providing staffing, professional, technical, training and maintenance services across Australia and New Zealand with more than 20,000 employees supporting industry.
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