Today is Melanoma Awareness Day and an opportunity for companies, charities and individuals to raise awareness, improve services, raise funds and share stories to help change the lives of others.


Being diagnosed with any type of cancer can be extremely worrying. It is often a time of uncertainty  and patients can feel lost, scared and overwhelmed whilst they await further testing and referrals.


Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and the 5th most common cancer in the UK, with over 40 new cases diagnosed every day. The positive news is that melanoma is almost always treatable if it is detected early and has an excellent survival rate.


Understanding Melanoma


Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs when pigment producing cells called melanocytes mutate and begin to divide. Early signs include changes to moles, irregular shapes, growth, bleeding and sometimes swelling and/or pain. The main cause of melanoma is thought to be exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds, although there are other theories around what causes these abnormalities too.


It is important to detect melanoma early to avoid the cancer spreading. This can then make treatment more invasive and reduce the survival rate from around 92% to 63%.


To help prevent the risk of developing skin cancers, it is advisable to:

  • Avoid the sun when it is at its strongest in the middle of the day;
  • Wear sun cream with a high SPF all year round;
  • Cover up if spending a prolonged time in the sun;
  • Avoid using tanning lamps and sun-beds;
  • Check your skin regularly for abnormalities;
  • Keep young children out of the sun as early exposure increases risk

Seeking Medical Advice


If you have concerns about skin cancer or have noticed some abnormalities to moles on your body, then it is important to make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. Taking action promptly can help to reduce the risk of melanoma developing or cancer spreading to other areas of your body.


At your first appointment with your GP, they are likely to examine your moles and they may take measurements or photographs to record any changes. If they have any immediate concerns, you could be referred to a skin specialist or they might send photographs off for a specialist to look at.


Treatment for melanoma, once confirmed, will depend on whereabouts the melanoma is on your body, how deep it is, whether it has spread and whether you have any other health conditions. Treatment could be surgical removal, targeted cancer drugs, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.


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Undetected Skin Cancer


Skin cancer can be quite difficult to diagnose. Some people may not even notice that they have abnormalities or changes to their moles, particularly if they are in harder to see places, such as on your back. It can also go unnoticed in Winter when people are covering up their skin.


Skin cancer can be mis-diagnosed as another condition such as eczema or the moles could be dismissed as non-cancerous if a thorough examination is not undertaken. Some moles could be missed, particularly in a short appointment.


A delayed diagnosis could be caused by a patient having to visit their doctor several times before getting an all-important referral. Or it could be caused by long waiting times, cancelled appointments and delays. Whilst it is rare, sometimes patient’s records can get mislaid and test results can be interpreted or filed incorrectly on records.


A late diagnosis can give skin cancer time to develop into the more serious stages of skin cancer or allow it to spread deeper into the skin tissue, the lymph nodes or other areas of the body. This can mean that treatment options are more limited or more invasive than if the cancer had been caught at an earlier stage. A patient’s survival rate will also be impacted negatively by a delayed diagnosis, and they may have to take time off work and have their lifestyle altered by the need for cancer treatment.


Skin Cancer at Work


For people who work outside, drive for a living or spend time around ultraviolet radiation, their exposure to dangerous rays is increased and their risk of developing skin cancer can rise.


Employers have a duty to protect their staff from harm, provide them with protective equipment, training, information and ensure they have a safe working environment. This will include additional dangers of working in the sun.


Whilst it can be difficult to ensure that employees are applying sun cream or wearing protective clothing, they have a responsibility to take reasonable steps. If an employer has failed to comply with their health and safety policies and a worker has developed skin cancer, then they may also have a claim against their employer.


Making a Claim


Skin cancer can have life-altering or fatal consequences if it is not treated in good time. Physicians should be alert to the symptoms and first signs of skin cancer so that it can be treated as early as possible to give patients the best possible chance of success.


If you or someone you care about has suffered a delay in diagnosis of skin cancer and is now facing extensive treatment as a result, then you may wish to explore the possibility of making a claim against the medical practitioners responsible. This might be a GP or a local hospital.


At Lamb Brooks we accept all Clinical Negligence claims including those for delay in diagnosing skin cancer or melanoma on a no win, no fee basis. Lamb Brooks front all the costs for lawyer’s time, expert reports, administration, court fees etc. and take an agreed percentage of the compensation award at the end of the case. This is all transparent, so that you know exactly where you stand.


If you would like to discuss a complaint or start the process of making a Clinical Negligence claim, then please call us today on 01256 844888. Alternatively, you can email us at enquiries@lambbrooks.com or speak to our online chat assistant via the website.


Other Articles You May Be Interested in Reading:

Highlights of Recent Clinical Negligence Cases

6 Signs That You May Have a Medical Negligence Claim

“Its Not About The Money” Justice After Medical Negligence


The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.