Nurse-led pop up clinics using the latest AI technology in dermatoscopes will soon be available to residents in regional South Australia to improve the early detection of skin cancer.
Supported by a $125,000 grant from The Hospital Research Foundation Group, the clinics will be available at existing community events to make it even easier for people to get checked.
The dermatoscope is a non-invasive handheld instrument that takes digital photographs of lesions that nurses will use to scan and refer.
The images will be forwarded to regional GPs and/or dermatologists for assessment and can also be used for ongoing surveillance and monitoring.
Specially trained nurses from regional areas will be trained to use the dermatoscope technology with support from Skin Smart Australia and local GP clinics. Dermatoscopy has greater diagnostic accuracy for skin cancers compared to those by naked-eye examinations.
Leading the project is Professor Marion Eckert (pictured), Director of the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre at the University of South Australia, who said people living in regional areas have a 15-31 per cent higher rate of skin cancer.
“The demographic being targeted in this project are over the age of 50 who live regionally and rurally,” she said.
“This is because 80 per cent of melanomas occur in this age group, as do most non-melanoma skin cancers. Skin cancer is so common within our community that two out of three people will have some form of skin cancer by the time they reach 70 years old.”
“While we will target those 50 and over, those with Fitzpatrick skin type I and anyone concerned about a suspicious lesion will not be turned away.
“This project will provide free expert nurse skin care checks at a community event and will teach local nurses to take high quality lesion images, with the focus to keep these skills within the local regional and rural community.”
Prof Eckert said new technologies in AI are not only expanding the health system’s capabilities for early detection and diagnosis but will also help patients to access the care they need after diagnosis.
She said while diagnosis still needs input from doctors, the AI is improving as more images are made available.
“AI can act as an assistant for overloaded doctors in diagnosing skin cancers,” she said.
“Trained nurses can take high quality images that can be referred on to the consumer’s GP and/or dermatologist.
“Local health practitioners will be better utilised by artificial intelligence diagnostic support, and where needed, dermatologist digital referrals.
“By upskilling local nurses, this resource remains in the area and as AI improves, we anticipate this will be increasingly used by local doctors in their practice also. This keeps skill and resources in the area in the long term.’’
People over the age of 50 in Victor Harbor, mid north, Port Lincoln and Coober Pedy will be able to visit the clinics in early 2023.
Dates for each rural clinic:
- Victor Harbor – SA Wooden Boat Festival – 28-30 April 2023
- Yorke Peninsula Field Days @ Paskerville – 26-28 September 2023
- Riverland Field Day September 2023
- Coober Pedy – Opal Festival – June 2024
*This grant is part of a total $250,000 being committed to fight against skin cancer. Dr Zlatko Kopecki from UniSA is also being funded to develop a minimally invasive method for early detection of malignant skin carcinoma.