The Hunter Melanoma Foundation (HMF) is committed to providing education and awareness programs around the importance of early protection and detection of melanoma in the local community.
This includes ensuring that our community isn’t putting off their regular skin checks during the cooler months or in times of uncertainty.
Executive Officer of the Foundation, Claudia Tolhurst said that melanoma isn’t seasonal and doesn’t stop impacting people during a pandemic.
“The unfortunate thing about melanoma, like many other cancers is that it doesn’t wait for a particular age, time of year or moment to strike. This has been particularly evident during COVID-19 with people putting off or rescheduling skin check appointments,” Claudia said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 more than 847 melanomas have gone undiagnosed in NSW alone. This is an alarming amount of people walking around the community unaware that they have a melanoma.
Director and Skin Check Doctor at Newcastle Skin Check, Dr Tony Azzi said that whilst people may be apprehensive to leave the house to get a skin check, the consequence of putting it off are more of a risk.
“Melanoma has a 95% cure rate if detected early. It is so important that people still take getting their skin checked seriously,” Dr Azzi said.
One person who understands the importance of getting their skin checked is Victoria Pengilly. After finding a suspicious spot on her foot, Victoria didn’t hesitate to book a doctor’s appointment. This spot on her foot was a melanoma. Victoria is 21.
“Even though it was a tiresome process I wouldn’t change anything because luckily the melanoma was found early and I am all ok now,”
“Being only 21 people were shocked that I had a melanoma, however I remind them that it can happen to anyone regardless of age, skin type, gender, and that everyone should be getting their skin checked regularly,” Victoria said.
In Australia, melanoma is the most common cancer in the 15-39 year old age group. The misconception that it only impacts old people is false and Victoria is living proof of that.
“Our clinic has treated teenagers with melanoma, the youngest we have had is 12 years old. Probably more than 50% of the melanomas we see are in people under 50,” Dr Azzi said.
The Foundation shares stories like Victoria’s to remind people of the scary reality of melanoma.
“HMF’s role within the community is to ensure people are not only protecting their skin but checking it regularly. Whilst the current focus is on COVID-19, it is still extremely important for our community to still be getting their regular skin checks, because as we know melanoma waits for no one,” Claudia said.