New era for melanoma detection

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SCHHS Head of Dermatology Dr Leith Banney and melanoma patient Hayley McGregor

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS) has begun a new era in melanoma detection in the fight against skin cancer.

SCHHS has joined the $10 million Australian Cancer Research Foundation funded Australian Centre of Excellence in Melanoma Imaging and Diagnosis (ACEMID) research project, installing a 3D total body skin imaging system (VECTRA) at Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH).

The VECTRA will revolutionise melanoma and skin cancer detection and diagnosis by digitally generating a patient's full-body avatar, significantly enhancing lesion identification and tracking, while improving accuracy of monitoring.

Head of Dermatology Dr Leith Banney said melanoma was the most common cancer in Australians aged 15 to 39, with the Sunshine Coast region being the melanoma capital of Queensland.

“SCUH has joined a network of 15 facilities with the total body imaging systems that will integrate and leverage world-class research expertise to provide new and reliable solutions for the early diagnosis of melanoma, particularly for people at high risk, in both metropolitan and regional areas," she said.

“This is an exciting step forward in the fight against skin cancer, particularly for our region where skin cancer is so prevalent.

“Over the past five years melanoma accounted for 4700 SCHHS hospitalisations. The VECTRA will help us map, monitor and diagnose skin conditions and skin cancers on high-risk melanoma patients.

“This means patients can be diagnosed and treated sooner.”

The ACEMID research project is a collaboration between The University of Queensland, The University of Sydney and Monash University.

For more information on how to get involved in the research and to register your interest, visit the ACEMID website – www.acemid.org.au

Patients interested in joining the study will need a referral from their GP.

Patient Story

Hayley McGregor was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 25 years old. It was luck that led to her initial diagnosis – she was working at a fast-food restaurant and a regular customer was a doctor who did skin checks. A casual conversation with him resulted in her booking an appointment.

“At the time I had a hard lump grow quite quickly on my left calf muscle. When I had the check-up there was a mole on my back he was also concerned about so he removed this and told me he will biopsy the lump on my leg. At the time we thought this was a cyst and was told I would probably need cosmetic surgery to it. He then received my results and called me back in to tell me they were both melanomas. He was able to clear the mole on my back at the doctors however the melanoma tumour on my leg would have to be referred to the hospital to remove. It ended up being an 11mm tumour in size. They removed this and 2 lymph nodes in the surgery and then gave me all clear.”

“I think the new VECTRA machine is amazing for someone like me who has hundreds of freckles and moles as this means extra security in knowing we are catching every opportunity we can of detecting something early. I have been told many times from doctors unfortunately I am a sitting duck for melanoma which can be quite stressful, I have a little family and I want to do everything I can to have as much time as I possibly can with them.”