OPINION

'I was lucky because I decided to get checked': Cancer scare for MP

'I was lucky because I decided to get checked': Cancer scare for MP

OPINION

For many of us, summer means days by the pool, beach, in the park or just relaxing in the sun with a good book. It's part of what makes our part of the world such a great place to live.

But, with these idyllic summer days comes a cost. For Australians, that cost can be counted in the almost a million new cases of skin cancer that are treated in our country each year.

Like many people my age I spent long hot days at the beach as a kid and quite a few nights tired and sore with sunburn. As a person with fair skin I have learnt to be vigilant about getting my skin checked regularly.

This year I am particularly glad I did. What was an annoying but persistent bump on my face has turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma. I have now joined the two thirds of Australians who receive a skin cancer diagnosis by the time they turn 70.

In my case, at least with a few weeks of treatment, wearing sunscreen and a hat every time I am outdoors and getting regular checks, I will be fine. I was lucky because I decided to get checked and because a doctor and pathologist caught it early.

Squamous cell carcinomas, alongside basel cell carcinomas, are one of the most common forms of skin cancer. While they're not as serious as melanomas, if not picked up early and treated they can have serious consequences.

Catherine King.

Catherine King.

Finding skin cancer early is the key, and I worry that after the past year many in our community will be missing their chance for an early diagnosis.

2020 was a tough year for us all. For vast chunks of it we stayed within our own four walls, not venturing out. With a pandemic to worry about, it became all too easy to ignore other health concerns that we might be living with.

This is borne out in the figures.

According to Medicare data, the number of face-to-face GP attendances for women from March to June last year fell by almost 24 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

BreastScreen Australia carried out 145,000 fewer mammograms in the first half of last year compared to the previous year. In the second half of the year, 12,000 more Australian women had catch up appointments, but that means many more didn't.

IN OTHER NEWS

Similar drops have been seen across screening for cervical cancer, skin cancer and other medical concerns.

Hundreds of thousands of Australians have put off tests that they should have had over the past year. This drop in testing rates means that fewer Australians will have their cancers diagnosed early and more will suffer serious illness and - tragically - lose their lives.

With the festive season coming to an end, now is the perfect opportunity to begin 2021 the right way, by checking up on your own health and discussing any lingering concerns with your doctor.

It's a new year's resolution that we should all be making.

As we get into the swing of 2021, remember to put on a hat, slap on some sunscreen, find some shade and chat to your doctor.

Catherine King is the Federal Member for Ballarat

This story 'I was lucky because I decided to get checked': Cancer scare for MP first appeared on The Courier.