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[5 min read] Australia heading for shortfall in skin specialists
Skin cancer experts warn that Australia is heading for a shortfall in dermatologists – a dangerous situation for the country with the world’s highest rate of melanoma.
With over 800,000 skin cancers diagnosed in Australia each year, it is vital that we have enough doctors with knowledge in skin cancer diagnosis and treatment to meet the rising patient demand.
Did you know? GPs have over one million consultations for skin cancer each year.
It is estimated that there is a 14 per cent deficiency in the projected demand for dermatology services. Australia already has a shortage of dermatologists, but this is predicted to worsen as the population grows and ages.
In addition, general practitioners receive little to no training in the field during their tertiary education, and skin specialists now take longer to train.
The problem is exacerbated in regional areas of Australia where there are fewer services and it is difficult to attract younger skin specialists. People living in more remote communities need to travel to receive diagnoses, which could prevent them from seeking timely treatment and worsen their outcomes.
Teledermatology – in which a photo of a suspicious lesion is sent to a skilled doctor for an opinion – has its shortfalls in that doctors only receive a 2D photo of a mole which doesn’t always provide enough information for an accurate diagnosis.
In the past 50 years, Australia has had a steady increase in the rates of melanoma and other skin cancers, recently regaining the title of the highest rate of melanoma in the world.
Nearly 2,000 Australians die every year from skin cancer, with more than 15,200 expected to be diagnosed with melanoma in 2019. The five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 per cent if caught early, so all measures to ensure early detection are vital.