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Skin cancer: Improving care

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new guidelines setting out key areas for improving care for skin cancer patients.

There are 2 main groups of skin cancer: malignant melanoma, which can prove fatal, and non-melanoma skin cancers, which are rarely fatal.

The quality standard is expected to contribute to improvements in skin cancer prevention and awareness, early diagnosis, referrals, correct treatment and recovery.

The new standard stresses the importance of GPs referring patients with suspected malignant melanoma for a specialist appointment within 2 weeks. In 2013, only two thirds of malignant melanomas were diagnosed under an urgent referral. The remaining third were diagnosed following a normal referral which can take between 4 and 6 weeks in some trusts and this wait has been deemed unnecessary.

Malignant melanomas in the UK have increased by 50% over the past 10 years and in 2013 there were around 14,500 new cases reported.

A number of factors can increase a person’s chance of developing skin cancer but overexposure to the sun is one of the primary factors and figures released in July showed that the “sun, sea and sangria” generation of older people are increasingly being diagnosed with skin cancer. Statistics show that malignant melanomas in people age 55 and over have increased by 155% in the last 20 years.

Despite the alarming increase in reported skin cancer diagnosis, the survival rate for malignant melanoma is improving and has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK. When diagnosed at its earliest stage, all people with malignant melanoma skin cancer will survive their disease for 5 years or more, compared with only 25% of women and 10% of men when diagnosed at a the latest stage. These statistics show the importance of identifying the disease early and making urgent referrals where cancer is suspected.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by a delay in diagnosing cancer, please contact one of our specialist lawyers on 0800 316 8892 or click here.