One of the key features of the four-month campaign – for Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research, and the BAD, the professional association of practising dermatologists in the UK and Eire – is a practical toolkit which illustrates the key clinical signs that warrant prompt referral to skin cancer services under the two-week wait rule.
Other elements of the joint campaign include a skin lesion recognition resource that enables GPs to browse images and descriptions of different types of cancerous, pre-cancerous and associated lesions, and to view referral guidelines. There is also an accredited educational quiz for GPs to test their knowledge and compare it against their peers, as well as a range of patient case studies and links to other key sources of information.
According to ‘Skin Conditions in the UK: A Healthcare Needs Assessment, 2009, skin disease is the most common reason for a patient to visit a GP and suspected cancer is the most common skin issue referred to specialists by GPs. Survival rates for malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – are better for people diagnosed early with the thinnest tumours. Early detection therefore greatly improves patient outcomes, but requires accurate recognition and referral of potential melanomas by GPs.
The skin conditions report also highlights studies which show that GPs receive little training in this area and that their skills in diagnosing skin lesions could be improved. This means that skin cancers may not be appropriately referred to secondary care or that patients with benign skin lesions may be referred to a specialist unnecessarily. The skin cancer referral toolkit will provide practical online training to help GPs with pattern recognition for malignant skin lesions.
The new national Doctors.net.uk campaign follows a three-month skin cancer pilot project, which was launched among ten GP practices across the UK in March 2012. It also follows a number of other successful Doctors.net.uk campaigns for Cancer Research UK, including those on early diagnosis for lung and bowel cancer and smoking cessation.
Chris Lunn, Health Campaigns Manager for Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Detecting skin cancer early can greatly improve patient outcomes. However, this requires prompt recognition and referral of potentially malignant skin lesions by GPs, many of whom have extremely limited training in this area.
‘Doctors.net.uk has created a comprehensive suite of online resources through which we can provide GPs with the practical online support and training they need to help them make the right decisions for patients with skin diseases.’
Stephen Jones, Consultant Dermatologist and President of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “This innovative tool will help GPs assess suspected skin cancer lesions and help inform their decision to refer, leading to improved quality referrals, health outcomes and life expectancy for patients.
“Early detection of skin cancer is core to the work of the British Association of Dermatologists, and the toolkit joins a number of other projects to improve early detection across the board from the public to those professionals working in the hair, beauty and wellbeing industries.”
Simon Grime, Managing Director of Communications for Doctors.net.uk, said: ‘GPs are frequently called upon to deal with skin disease and skin cancer is the most common form of cancer that they are likely to see in their consulting room. It is therefore vital that they receive appropriate training and support.
“We have created a highly practical, targeted campaign which we believe will be invaluable in helping GPs to identify suspicious lesions and reduce the number of inappropriate referrals made to secondary care.”
Doctors.net.uk members can view the campaign at www.doctors.net.uk/