Skin cancer diagnosis boost

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A SHEFFIELD GP surgery is piloting a technique that speeds up the diagnosis of skin cancer.

Patients at Dovercourt surgery in Skye Edge Avenue who are concerned about a mole or abnormal skin lesion are no longer referred to hospital and now wait days instead of weeks for the results.

A specialist microscope uses 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 specialists.

Dovercourt health care assistant Hilary Tomlinson 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 on to 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 referral to hospital 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 scheme is being spearheaded at Dovercourt with a view to it being rolled out at other surgeries in the Central Sheffield GP Consortium.

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.