Advanced melanoma patients in Cork and Kerry can access ground-breaking therapies not available on the open market thanks largely to the work of clinicians who set up the first dedicated melanoma multidisciplinary team (MDT) in the country, writes Catherine Shanahan
The South West Melanoma MDT, consisting of dermatologists, plastic surgeons, surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, radiotherapists, research nurses, celebrates its 10 anniversary this year.
Consultant dermatologist Dr Michelle Murphy said the work of the team had helped attract research opportunities and that as a result, patients could access drugs not available on prescription.
The legacy of foreign holidays in the '70s and '80s was playing a part in the increased incidence of melanoma over the past 20 years, she said.
Dr Murphy said patients who developed melanoma, the most lethal of all skin cancers, could do well if it was caught early.
Currently, there are three clinical trials open for advanced melanoma at Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Dr Murphy said avoiding sunburn was the best way to avoid developing melanoma which is more common in women but also more treatable than in men who tend to present later to health services.
Moles that appear to be changing in colour or shape or that develop irregular borders are warning signs for melanoma. In women, the site where melanoma develops is more likely to be the leg while in men it’s the trunk and back.
“The best defence is to prevent burning and the best way to do that is to cover up. A t-shirt is a better defence than suncream, but suncream should be used in areas that can’t be covered,” Dr Murphy said.
About 800 new cases are diagnosed each year in Ireland of which c150 are diagnosed in Cork and Kerry.
Dr Murphy said these patients could available of an improved patient care pathway by virtue of the work and expertise of the MDT, starting with referral of suspected cases to the pigmented lesion clinic at South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital.
“Every patient is entitled to have their case discussed at the MDT where any decisions made about treatment is evidence-based,” Dr Murphy said.
To mark the team’s 10-year anniversary a multidisciplinary study day on malignant melanoma for health professionals will take place at the main lecture theatre in CUH tomorrow
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.