Call for GPs to fill skin cancer gap
THE gap between the ‘woefully’ low numbers of dermatologists on the Northern Rivers and the region’s alarmingly high rates of melanoma needs to be filled by specially-trained GPs, a local skin cancer expert has said.
Only two dermatologists service the Northern Rivers between Grafton and the border, despite figures from the Cancer Institute NSW revealing the region has the highest incidence of melanoma rates in the world.
Dr Jeffrey Keir, from the Northern Rivers Skin Cancer Clinic, described the number of dermatologists – the only doctors legally allowed to call themselves skin specialists – as ‘woefully inadequate’ and said it was GPs who had to pick up the slack.
Dr Keir said more skin cancer clinics, such as the bulk-billing Northern Rivers Skin Cancer Clinic in Ballina he worked at, were needed.
“Skin cancer clinics staffed by appropriately trained GPs may have a special role to play in supplementing available care in rural and regional areas such as Ballina, which have shortages of family doctors, dermatologists, plastic surgeons and general surgeons,” Dr Keir said.
“Such clinics can deliver care much more efficiently and cheaply than specialist services and hospital-based services.”
Dr Keir said general practitioners, in both skin cancer clinics and elsewhere, should be the mainstay of skin cancer detection and care in Australia, but it was essential for GPs to be trained in dermoscopy.
However, Dr Keir, who is also chair of the research committee of the Skin Cancer College of Australia and New Zealand, said more regulations were needed to govern the new breed of skin cancer clinics.
Although melanoma rates outnumbered breast cancer and bowel cancer on the Northern Rivers, there was no funding for a local skin cancer equivalent to the highly-visible mobile breast screening services, he said.
Dr Keir said future directions for tackling the skin cancer crisis might include population screening, like the BreastScreen program.
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