Should I care about Melanoma and other skin cancer?
Yes. New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. Over 4000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year in New Zealand. It’s the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand, and around 350 New Zealanders die of melanoma every year.
Do I need a skin check?
Early detection is your best defence against melanoma and other skin cancers. A thorough check by a qualified skin cancer doctor is highly recommended to ensure any suspicious lesion is identified early before it has a chance to grow further and cause harm. We’d recommend an annual skin check for both peace of mind if all clear, and to enable early detection of any new potentially dangerous lesions. Our doctors are highly trained and can alert you to any lesions of concern.
What does a skin check involve?
Our initial skin check appointments are usually 30 minutes long. This includes taking a medical history of your skin, advising us of any concerns, letting us know about your family history, followed by a full body check including special attention to any areas you are worried about. We don’t routinely check beneath your underwear unless you have noticed something you're concerned about. A nurse chaperone is available should you wish.
At the end of the examination our doctors will either reassure you there are no particular concerns, or we’ll have a closer look at any areas that appear troublesome. If we have identified a suspicious looking mole or other lesion, we will explain our concern, and discuss the options for treatment. Often we can treat early lesions on the day with liquid nitrogen or give you a topical cream. More serious lesions may require minor surgery and this is discussed and booked at another time that suits you.
What is dermoscopy?
Dermoscopy (or dermatoscopy - they're the same thing) is essentially the use of a skin microscope to look more closely at moles or skin lesions. A dermoscope has a polarised light and 10x magnification to enable structures in the skin surface to be visualised. This is much more accurate at picking up signs of melanoma and other skin cancers than simply checking with the naked eye.
How is melanoma diagnosed?
Some melanoma clearly stand out and are easy to spot, however most have only subtle changes visible by dermoscopy to a trained eye.
If our doctors find a lesion that looks suspicious for a melanoma or other skin cancer, you may require a biopsy. A biopsy involves the lesion being removed and sent to the pathology lab for testing (viewing under the microscope). It is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis.
There are different types of biopsy, but all involve removing part of, or the whole lesion under local anaesthetic. A pathologist then examines the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Generally, the pathologist will report the results in less than a week, and we will discuss the result and what it means with you.
What treatments may I need?
Treatments may include topical creams, cryotherapy (freezing a lesion), biopsy or complete removal of a cancerous lesion.
Cryotherapy: This uses liquid nitrogen (-196 degrees celsius) to freeze the skin spot with abnormal cells. It takes only seconds, then forms a small blistery sore, which heals over 1-2 weeks depending on body location. Cryotherapy is commonly used to treat pre-cancerous lesions in sun-damaged areas (eg face, scalp, arms, hands), before they can develop into a skin cancer that needs removing surgically.
Topical creams: There are a number of creams that can treat pre-cancerous lesions, or superficial non-melanoma skin cancers. They have various treatment applications and side effects which will be discussed further if required.
Biopsy: There are various kinds of biopsy, which involves removing a small piece of tissue (3-4mm) to send to the lab for pathology testing.
Excision: Some lesions are obvious skin cancers that are best treated by complete surgical excision. These are always sent for pathology testing for an accurate diagnosis and to ensure the cancer has been removed completely. Excisions are done under local anaesthetic to numb the skin and make the procedure painless. The procedure usually takes 30-45 minutes, and the wound is closed with sutures and covered by a dressing. Sutures are usually removed a week or so later.
Do you treat on site?
All our medical procedures are carried out here at Marewa Surgery in our treatment room, and you can return home the same day, having been provided with instructions on caring for the treatment site. All post-operative care is provided by the clinic as part of your treatment.
What does skin surgery involve?
We use various simple and more advanced surgical techniques to close a wound once a skin cancer has been removed. Wounds are usually closed directly (one line of sutures), or if larger or more complex then we may use a flap of skin from an adjacent area, or sometimes with a skin graft. These are all performed in the clinic under a local anaesthetic.
Prior to surgery we will explain the treatment options and what to expect. We make all efforts to minimise the appearance of any scars to give you the best possible cosmetic result.
What should I expect following treatment?
Following minor skin surgery, we will clearly explain post-operative wound care, and you will be provided with information/instructions on how to give the wound the best chance of healing. We will arrange a follow-up visit to remove any stitches and monitor healing. If you have any queries at any time, we are a phone call away. There is no extra charge for routine follow-up and suture removal.
How much does an appointment cost?
- An initial skin appointment including full body skin check is usually 30 minutes and costs $160.
- Follow up appointments / skin checks are usually 15 minutes and cost $110.
- For minor surgery, there are multiple factors that affect the cost (e.g. size of lesion, type of closure, theatre time). We will quote you before each procedure.
Will my health insurance cover it?
Both our doctors are Southern Cross Affiliated Providers and manage all claims for Southern Cross members electronically on the day. We suggest you bring your membership number with you, and we can apply for pre-approval on the spot.
If you have health insurance with another company (e.g. NIB, Sovereign, Partners Life) the appointment and any treatment including surgery will usually be able to be claimed back, depending on your policy.
Do I need a referral from my GP?
We are happy to see new patients with or without a GP referral.
I have more questions - who can I talk to?
We are happy to answer your queries. Please phone us (06) 843 8395. Alternatively you may send us a note via the contact page on this website, or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org