Skin cancer doctor records busiest week ever in Far North Qld

A SPECIALIST doctor who has treated 15 skin cancers in just 12 days has warned Far North Queenslanders to take far more care of their bodies outdoors.

Skin specialist Dr Ebbie Swemmer of Smithfield Central Doctors said he was astounded after the marathon week-and-a-half last year, where he diagnosed potentially deadly mel­anomas in patients ranging from a 26-year-old woman to an 82-year-old man.

Some patients had multiple cancers, including an outdoor electricity worker.

“It’s the most amount of melanomas I’ve ever had consecutively,’’ Dr Swemmer said. “I usually see about one melanoma case a week, on a regular fulltime basis.

“But they just kept coming.  It was a bit chaotic with such an exceptional amount of melanomas.”

Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and usually occurs on the parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun. The cancer is more commonly diagnosed in men than women.

Queensland has a melanoma incidence rate of 71 cases per 100,000 people, vastly exceeding rates in all other ­jurisdictions nationally and ­internationally.

More than 3600 Queenslanders are diagnosed with melanoma each year, and it is estimated that more than 350,000 non-melanoma skin cancers are treated. In Australia in 2011, there were 1544 deaths due to melanoma.

Dr Swemmer said he did not know whether the incidence of melanoma was rising in the Far North but a bigger problem appeared to be a lack of regular follow-up checks.

“I had a fellow in here who works outdoors, who had a melanoma I took out of him last year,’’ he said.

“I had him back two months later, and then two months after that, and he had developed a black spot behind his ear. It was a melanoma and we had to amputate half of his ear.

“If he hadn’t come back here, he would have been dead by today.

“It just shows how important regular follow-up checks are,” he said.

Source: Cairns Post

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