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Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Skin cancer handbook launch
New handbook brings extra support for skin cancer patients
12 July 2016

People referred to Ipswich Hospital with skin cancer will soon be offered essential information to guide them from diagnosis through treatment to discharge thanks to a new handbook written for patients by patients.

The malignant melanoma handbook has been put together by members of the hospital’s skin cancer support group, and will be given to every new patient to offer advice and guidance following their diagnosis.

The handbook includes information on the four main types of melanoma, its causes, diagnosis and prevention, as well as explaining the way people may feel after a diagnosis and how to cope with those emotions.

It also features pages for patients to personalise by writing down their own treatment plan, which can then be shared with other people involved in their care, such as their GP, as well as a self-surveillance chart so that they can continue to check their skin and lymph nodes following treatment.

Information is also provided about where to go for more help, including details of the hospital’s own skin cancer support group and the John Le Vay Cancer Information and Support Centre.

Rachel Alexander, Macmillan skin cancer clinical nurse specialist, said: “We are really pleased with this handbook, which has been written for patients, by patients to provide help and support at what can often be a very difficult time.

“The support group have included all of the information they would have found helpful following their diagnosis, which has been put together in a clear, easy to understand format which new patients will be able to take away with them.

“A melanoma diagnosis can be a huge shock, but patients do not have to feel alone with their diagnosis and treatment. As well as providing vital information about what to expect, the booklet also shows the range of help which is available, including our own skin cancer support group whose members have all faced similar experiences.

“We have seen a large increase in the number of patients referred to us with suspected skin cancer over the past five years, with the number of people being diagnosed with melanoma rising from around 80 to 100 a year. We hope that this handbook will prove a useful resource throughout their treatment and follow up.”

Sue Roberts, chair of the support group, said: “When Rachel first talked to group members about the idea of a handbook for newly-diagnosed melanoma patients, the response was extremely positive.

“Everyone was keen to be involved and we had several discussions, remembering how we all felt when diagnosed and asking ourselves what we would like to have known at that scary time. Many of our questions and thoughts were similar so it was relatively easy to put all these ideas together in the hope that they will help other patients.

“The handbook is something that can be referred to at any time by the patient and also, quite importantly, shown to family and friends who often have little knowledge of what a melanoma diagnosis means.

“It is certainly something that we all would have liked access to following diagnosis. Our main message to new patients is that they are not alone and that help, advice and support is readily available.”

Anyone who notices any changes to their skin which they cannot explain, such as a new pigmented area or recent changes in colour, size, shape or sensation of a mole, should see their GP.