MP speaks out on melanoma, gives duff advice.
The following text has been copied from an item in the Worksop Guardian (link below) which came up on my Google alert on melanoma.
>>>>>>>>>John Mann MP has launched a campaign against skin cancer in Bassetlaw after it emerged that the area has the highest number of people suffering from melanoma in the country.
Melanoma is the UK’s fifth most common cancer (*) with rates increasing more rapidly than any of the current ten most common cancers for both men and women.
Mr Mann said: “It is of huge concern that so many people in Bassetlaw suffer from this type of skin cancer and it’s important that patients are aware of the dangers of melanoma and for patients who receive an advanced diagnosis to be able to access a number of treatments available.
“I will be working with the charity Melanoma UK to raise awareness of this cancer in Bassetlaw and supporting their work to ensure appropriate treatments are available on the NHS.
“Anyone who sees any sign of skin changes such as bleeding moles should play it safe and immediately make an appointment to see their GP. The NHS website has further advice on symptoms and treatment.” (my emphasis-SH)
Gillian Nuttall, founder of Melanoma UK, said: “I am delighted that John Mann MP has launched a campaign to raise more awareness of melanoma in Bassetlaw. Treated early, melanoma is one of the most curable cancers; left late, it is one of the most deadly.” <<<<<<<<<<<<<
Now this is all very well, but it mainly seems to me to be about lobbying for the very expensive new palliative drugs for stage 4 melanoma (I won’t name them but they can be easily Googled). These drugs are horrifically expensive (theoretically up to half a million pounds per patient for combined and repeated courses) have severe (sometimes fatal) side effects and so far only a few patients have survived more than 2 years. The benefits are being played up and the down side played down. I’m not saying these drugs shouldn’t be used, just that we must have a calm debate about the costs, risks and (limited) benefits and not simply say ‘The NHS must fund them, fullstop!’
All this is debatable and others’ views will not be the same as mine. But my main problem with the statement above is that it gives worse than useless advice about early diagnosis, which we know saves lives.
The statement that people with ‘bleeding moles’ should see their GP to ‘play it safe’ reveals a PROFOUND AND DANGEROUS IGNORANCE about the early diagnosis of melanoma. Friends, if you are unlucky enough to have a melanoma, which 1 in 50 of us over a lifetime will be, then by the time it is BLEEDING your chances of survival are much reduced. Most skin lesions that bleed will be benign (e.g. traumatised wart) or low grade cancer (e.g. basal cell cancer which is 99% curable). most melanomas will look abnormal for months to a year or more before they start bleeding. Bleeding is a LATE sign of ADVANCED melanoma.
The whole point of dermoscopy, and of this blog and my course, is to pick up melanomas at a thin and CURABLE stage well before they have grown big and thick enough to start bleeding.
Gillian Nuttall’s comment is more sensible but does not go far enough (fair enough she may have said more that wasn’t reported). We need a trained dermoscopist in every health centre to competently check every mole that is changing colour, shape or size or which just looks wrong.
Since melanoma is now killing more than twice as many people as cancer of the cervix, for which we have universal screening and now a vaccine, why on earth not? The ‘new treatments’ that The Honourable Mr Mann MP is advocating for will, as I mentioned in an earlier post, cost the NHS £billions, and they are for the most part only palliative-giving an extra 6 or 12 months of survival. We should be putting a much bigger effort into earlier diagnosis and dermoscopy training for GPs and practice nurses is key to this. (**)
The drug companies and advanced melanoma sufferers are vocally advocating for the NHS to find much new money to fund these VERY costly drugs, but who is advocating for earlier diagnosis, which we know saves more lives and saves them much cheaper?
(*) only if you don’t count non melanoma skin cancer, which is far and away our most common cancer. Usually omitted from statistics as it is rarely fatal.
(**) declaration of interest, SH earns reward for providing this kind of education and training.