New testing kit for skin cancer

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PATIENTS in Sheffield are waiting less time to receive a diagnosis of skin cancer thanks to pioneering equipment being piloted by GP surgeries in the city.

The hi-tech diagnositic kit means people with concerns about a mole or abnormal skin lesion do not have to wait for a hospital referral to find out if the abnormality is cancerous or benign.

The dermascope technology is being trialled at Dovercourt surgery in Skye Edge in a scheme spearheaded by the Central Sheffield GP Consortium, a group of GPs who work across 27 practices in the city.

Hilary Tomlinson, health care assistant at Dovercourt, said: “We’re currently seeing about six patients a week who would have otherwise have to travel to hospital rather than be treated in a primary care setting.

“Once the dermascope image has been taken it is uploaded onto a computer and sent off to a mole clinic in London who then generate a report – sometimes as quickly as the next working day - telling us whether the abnormality is cancerous or benign and therefore whether an instant hospital referral is required.

“This means patients using dermascope are being seen and getting a diagnosis within a week – ordinarily it may have taken weeks just for the referral and the hospital appointment.”

The equipment works using light and magnification to produce a high quality digital image of the underlying structures of the skin. The digital images are sent for analysis by skin care specialists who then produce a dermascopic investigation report.

Patient Mabel Akers said the new system had saved her a lot of time - and worry.

The 72-year-old grandmother from Skye Edge said: “I have had two cancerous moles removed before and so when I spotted one on my back that was in an awkward place I couldn’t really see, I decided to get it checked out.

“In the past, I have been referred to a dermatologist at the Hallamshire Hospital who had then organised for treatment to remove the moles. This time with the dermascope it was really, really quick - within two days I knew whether it was good or bad news. Thankfully, this one was fine but it saved me a lot of time and a lot of worry.”

The service is also expected to significantly reduce the number of patients with malignant melanoma initially misdiagnosed by GPs, as well as cutting the number of people with benign pigmented lesions or moles being referred unnecessarily to hospital.