Likely five more years until free skin checks return

LIFE SAVER: Colin Beauchamp AM has been volunteering as a dermoscopist with the Lions Club for 27 years.
LIFE SAVER: Colin Beauchamp AM has been volunteering as a dermoscopist with the Lions Club for 27 years.

A team of five volunteers may have saved the lives of many Katherine residents. 

About 30 people in Katherine have been told they have possibly life threatening skin spots and need to visit their doctor.

Another 28 were refereed to their GP for further investigation when the Lions Club offered residents free skin cancer checks this week.

Appointments were completely booked out before the van even pulled into town.  

About 100 people were left on a  waiting list and it could be another five years before free checks are available in town again.

Colin Beauchamp AM has been volunteering as a dermoscopist with the Lions Club for 27 years and said this is the first with the mobile van has come to the Northern Territory. 

“There are about 120 Lions Clubs in this group and we get about 30 to 40 requests each year so that is an average return rate of five years,” Mr Beauchamp said. 

“The first patient we had in Katherine had a lesion that looked life threatening to me.

“I don’t think I have ever been to a screening that was not booked out and we see about 100 to 110 people each day.”

In Katherine, 163 cancers were diagnosed between 2012 and 2014.

That equates to about one per week. 

The most common cancer was found in the breast (24), followed by lung (21)  and bowel cancer (20). 

While the screenings could not diagnose skin cancer, the volunteer health professionals were able to refer any people with suspect spots to their doctor for further assessment and treatment if required.

“We do not offer treatments or diagnosis we just do referrals to GPs,” Mr Beauchamp said.

“The referral rate is about 29 per cent.”

Mr Beauchamp said he had already seen two or three lesions in Katherine that had probably been left too late. 

“None of the lesions we diagnose are confirmed until they get results from a pathology test but 99 per cent of the time we know what it is,” he said. 

“You can get skin cancer wherever you have skin, the soles of your feet and the palm of your hands are the most aggressive, but you can get skin cancer on the inside of your mouth, the tops of your ears, your head, you do not need direct sunlight.

“A big misconception is that skin cancer is an oldies disease but the incidence rate in 20 to 40-year-olds is one in 18, so it is not just an oldies disease,” Mr Beauchamp said.

Eighty-seven men and 141 females were seen by the volunteer skin specialists.

“There are always more women than men and a lot of the men come because they have been told they need to, the guys ignore it.”

THANK YOU: Lions volunteers Andy Sayers, Marilyn Millar, Colin Beauchamp, Siva and Chris Lowings.

THANK YOU: Lions volunteers Andy Sayers, Marilyn Millar, Colin Beauchamp, Siva and Chris Lowings.

Father and son John and Darcy Lye stopped by the clinic for a quick checkup this week. 

“We just heard about it and thought it sounded like a great idea,” Mr Lye said. 

“The Lions have done a really good job putting this on, and it is important to get checked, the NT sun is so strong, skin cancer is a big thing up here. 

Mr Lye said he probably would not have made an appointment with his GP specifically to get his skin checked.

“If I am already going to the GP then I think I might as well get checked but otherwise probably not. 

John’s son Darcy Lye is back to visit his family in Katherine on his university holidays. 

“I just got into town and I was old I was booked in,” Darcy Lye said. 

He said there was “no chance” young people would take the initiative to get checked on their own. 

“They are lazy and you do not assume it will happen to you because you don’t really know anyone with cancer but as you get older more people you know get cancer so you probably take it more seriously.”

Katherine Lions Club president Stephen McKenna said two in three Australians will develop skin cancer before the age of 70. 

“We are also four times more likely to develop skin cancer than any other form of cancer, more than 1890 Australians die each year from skin cancer,” Mr McKenna said. 

Gorge Health practice manager Judy Spafford said the clinic is equipped to check for skin cancer. 

“If they cannot make it in to see someone at the van, all of our doctors can do skin checks. 

“If people are referred to us from the van we will do our best to accommodate them, we are here for the people of Katherine.”

A spokeswoman from the health department said people should not go to the emergency department if they want to get their skin checked

“We encourage people to see their primary health care provider such as their GP,” the spokeswoman said.