Melanoma Skin Cancer Awareness Month

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12 May, 2021

John Bennett

Melanoma UK have launched a public awareness campaign urging people to go on the hunt for the estimated missed 4,358 melanomas missed during the pandemic.*

Melanoma is a type of cancer that starts in skin cells called melanocytes which make a pigment called melanin which gives the skin it's natural colour and helps to protect the body from UV radiation from the sun. Melanoma is the appearance of a mole, change in existing moles or in other pigmented tissue**

Claims often arise from the delay in diagnosing malignant melanomas usually when a GP fails to appreciate the significance of a skin lesion, fails to give advice to return if there are any changes or fails to refer on to a dermatologist. If you are concerned about any unusual lesions or moles, the advice is to contact your local GP immediately.

There are guidelines from The National Institute for Healthcare and Excellence (NICE) and the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) which are used by GPs and dermatologists to identify malignant melanomas from benign skin lesions. These guidelines are often the focus of any claim for negligence. They require clinicians to:

  • Assess all pigmented skin lesions that are either referred for assessment or identified during follow-up in secondary or tertiary care, using dermoscopy carried out by healthcare professionals trained in this technique.
  • Do not routinely use confocal microscopy or computer-assisted diagnostic tools to assess pigmented skin lesions.

As a general rule a long-standing pigmented lesion that is changing or a new lesion increasing in size should be assumed to be malignant until proved otherwise.

If the lesion is suspicious a dermatologist will then assess the patient and may well recommend removal of the lesion. The Breslau thickness and the presence of lymph node involvement are important features. If malignant, it grows vertically and will be recorded as Breslow thickness. 0.5 mm and has a 10-year survival of 95%. More than 4mm and the 10-year survival falls to below 50%. Each mm increase can result in a 13% increase. Breslow thicknesses are variable but may be as much as 0.5 mm per month. It needs to be investigated quickly and excised (removed).

Disputes often arise about how far the growth has progressed during a period of delay. Experts can try and work this out by back calculating the growth rate but it is not a precise science. The best evidence comes from any documented change in appearance from the patient or their family and friends.

In the event you are unhappy with the response or failure to refer and are unlucky enough to develop a malignancy you may have a case. Here at Forbes Solicitors, we have experience of dealing with similar cases. If you would like some advice in whether you may have a case please contact one of our no-win no fee solicitors for free no obligation advice.

For more information contact John Bennett in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 872111. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Melanoma UK have produced a 'Finder's Guide' which explains the warning signs of melanoma skin cancer and a 7-step process for conducting a full body exam. You can also find further information and support here.


** WHAT IS MELANOMA? | Melanoma UK

Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here

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