Since our Melanoma New Zealand Spot Check van launched earlier this year, it has been travelling to different locations to raise awareness about the signs of melanoma, the importance of early detection, and to provide free spot checks.
The van was made possible thanks to the wonderful generosity of Ryman Healthcare, which funded the van and the fit out. Our Melanoma New Zealand Nurse Educator Gill Rolfe has been travelling with the van, and says that the reaction when the van pulls up to a new location is fantastic.
“Crowds gather, there is a real buzz and people are chatting with our team and each other while they line up for spot checks on their skin,” she says. “We recently travelled around the Coromandel, visiting Thames, Cooks Beach, and Whangamata, and it was just amazing how the local community really got in behind us, complete with someone bringing us home-made sandwiches for lunch, and another person heading off to the local pizza joint to order us food – we totally didn’t expect this from anyone, but it was a lovely and very ‘Kiwi’ welcome that we appreciated. News travelled fast and I think we must have spot checked more than 200 people in the region while we were there.”
Gill says, “What has really struck me talking to people is that they don’t always realise that melanoma is actually a very serious cancer, and that it can be deadly if it isn’t detected and treated early. People tend to think of skin cancer as being Basal Cell Carcinoma or Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which are generally slower growing and tend to spread more across the surface of the skin. While they are both serious skin cancers that need treatment (and can, in some cases, become life threatening), melanoma grows quickly, and if not caught and treated early, it spreads to other organs and can literally cost you your life.
“We’ve also been to Snells Beach, Silverdale, Whangarei, Dargaville, and around the time this newsletter goes to print, we will be visiting Napier, Hastings and Havelock North, followed by Hamilton in June. Since we launched the van earlier this year, we have provided more than 1,400 spot checks and more than 240 have been referred on for further evaluation of suspicious lesions. We have also provided valuable education, empowering people to feel confident checking their own skin.
“We’ve really been thrilled by the reception that we’ve been getting with the van. As well as our own staff, we are so fortunate to have our amazing Melanoma New Zealand volunteers at various locations, providing a friendly welcome and checking consent forms. We are so grateful for the support we are getting for the van; it is really making a difference and helping us reach so many people. As soon as locations are confirmed for the van, they are added to our website. If you have any spots you are concerned about, please don’t wait for the van to come to your town – seek medical advice immediately.”