Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Range of Service Providers and Professionals Can Help Spot Skin Cancers

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Range of Service Providers and Professionals Can Help Spot Skin Cancers

Article excerpt

Service providers can help spot skin cancer


TORONTO - It could appear on your scalp. Or the sole of your foot. Under a fingernail. Or on a stretch of your back that is virtually impossible to see without a three-way mirror.

Skin cancers can show up anywhere. And while we all should be keeping an eye out for moles on our skin that are changing colour or size, there are a lot of other people who can help detect skin cancer as well.

Your hairdresser or barber sees far more of your scalp than you ever will. A massage therapist gets a great view of a client's back. A podiatrist can see the undersides of feet or the cracks between toes.

Any person who provides a health-related service -- they are often called allied medical professionals -- or even a beauty-based one can play a role in early detection of skin cancer, suggests Dr. Richard Langley, president-elect of the Canadian Dermatology Association.

"Skin cancer can occur on any cutaneous surface ... from the feet up to the scalp. So when you think about it, you can see that there is a broad group of medical, allied medical and non-medical (professionals) that could provide a benefit to patients by screening in these areas," says Langley, who is a professor of dermatology and director of dermatology research at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

"So hairdressers. Chiropractors. Massage therapists. Respiratory therapists. Estheticians. Podiatrists. Orthotics (fitters). All of these groups are examining the skin and are able to see and identify a lesion that may be of concern."

Some already consider informal skin cancer screening as part of their job.

Melanie Dowell, a registered massage therapist from Tantallon, near Halifax, remembers spotting a lesion she didn't like the look of on the back of a new client a few years ago. It was dark, with jagged edges.

"The red flag went up for me," says Dowell, whose training program at Northumberland College in Halifax included a section on differentiating cancerous from non-cancerous moles and lesions.

She asked the woman about it. The client said she'd had the mole examined by her doctor and he'd assured her it was fine. But when the woman came back for a second massage, Dowell urged her to go back and get the mole rechecked.

The woman didn't book a third appointment. "I figured I probably annoyed her or something and she went off somewhere else," Dowell says.

Months later, she got a thank-you letter from the woman, who had followed Dowell's advice. The mole was diagnosed as melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. The letter said the surgeon who removed the lesion told the woman she was lucky she had sought care when she did.

The letter came with a small present. "She gave me an angel ornament and said I was her angel and I saved her life," Dowell says.

Danielle Love, a registered massage therapist from Halifax, makes a point of scanning her clients' skin. …

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