Wednesday, March 27, 2013

All about: why you should get a MoleMap, and ASAP


When I went to get a ‘routine’ mammogram last year I found out that I had early stage breast cancer and was successfully operated on and treated, so I’m all about regular check ups that really can save lives.
Living in the Southern Hemisphere skin cancer is another big killer of young women, so I jumped at the chance to have a MoleMap recently and see where my own skin stood in the spectrum of risk of this so easily treatable but occasionally fatal disease.
For those of you that haven’t heard of it MoleMap is a melanoma detection programme that was designed to help identify melanoma skin cancer at an early stage. It uses a combination of technology and the skills of expert dermatologists to provide a thorough and accurate procedure, and is far less painfully than say, a mammogram or smear test, but just as effective and essential.
MoleMap was formed in 1997 by a group of New Zealand dermatologists who shared a vision and passion for developing a world leading melanoma cancer and skin cancer detection programme that combined innovative imaging technology with the expertise of skin specialists. They developed the company after observing that, despite continuing educational programmes promoting sun protection, the number of deaths from melanoma each year was not decreasing and the message clearly wasn’t getting through. I still hear about women in New Zealand who lie out on sunbeds on a more than regular basis for example, and all too many who think that a burn is the easiest way to a tan.
They also recognised that melanomas were not always being picked up in routine skin checks because the doctors carrying out these checks did not always have the technology or skills to recognise cancerous moles (melanomas), particularly at the early stage, and that they often didn’t keep a record of anything checked on file to revisit in subsequent years. So, MoleMap was born and you can now make an appointment to have one at locations all over New Zealand.
So what does it involve? Your first to MoleMap appointment consists of a thorough one-hour consultation with a Melanographer (nurse trained in skin cancer and dermoscopic imaging). During this hour your moles are 'mapped' (hence the term 'mole map') onto your body using the latest imaging technology to create a baseline of your skin and mole locations. It involves a bit of standing around and a lot of pics snapped of individual body parts, but not once did I feel uncomfortable as my nurse, Susan was so damn thorough and informed.
Utilising skin surface microscopy, each suspicious mole or lesion is then digitally imaged and any relevant data about the lesion such as an apparent change, itchiness, tenderness or general patient concern is recorded alongside each imaged lesion.
All of the images and associated data are then sent via a secure network to be diagnosed by one of a panel of international specialist dermatologists. The data and images are then permanently archived on a remote central database for secure storage and access for future mole comparisons, a service that your doctor just isn’t able to offer.
Within 5-10 working days you receive a report from a dermatologist, a copy of which goes to your designated doctor or specialist if you tick that box. It identifies any moles or lesions of concern and provides recommendations on the management of these. If the recommendation involves further procedures you are advised to discuss and coordinate these with your doctor or specialist.
A MoleMap isn’t cheap at $300.00 for the initial one-hour appointment, but that also covers free fifteen minutes follow up dermatologist Spot Checks any time within the first year of your initial appointment. This is essential if you are still concerned about a lesion after your initial consultation, or if you notice any changes that are giving you more than a few sleepless nights.
So, if you haven’t had one then I highly recommend that you do - you owe it to yourself and your loved ones.

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