Skin Cancer Specialist Billy Hefferon, who lives in Preston, was presented with a NHS Innovation Challenge Prize in London recently.
The award was for his work on the team that is helping detect early signs of skin cancer. The project was Highly Commended for Earlier Cancer Diagnosis -‘A ‘beautiful’ approach to detecting skin cancer earlier.’ The event was attended by Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health.
Also part of the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Network and Preston College team was NHS Central Lancashire public health associate, Kerry Crooks.
Billy, who works at the Burnley General and Royal Blackburn Hospitals, has been working with Preston College, local hair and beauty salons, training assessors and hair and beauty students, delivering skin cancer training sessions to highlight the specialist role hair and beauty professionals can play – being in that prime position to spot any changes to skin lesions on their clients and encourage clients to see their GP.
Billy states: “The students would be in a unique position to spot skin cancer lesions on their clients, Billy pointed out, and they could help get problems diagnosed more quickly. A large proportion of the people I see have something called basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
“Although this is not as dangerous as a melanoma, a BCC can cause severe disfigurement, and they usually need surgical removal. Almost all of them appear on the face or neck – the areas which are always exposed to sunlight, no matter what the weather is like.
“Hairdressers and beauty therapists have anecdotally spotted things for years but we wanted to formalise it and help them understand what they might see.
“They’re not expected to diagnose things but can point people in the right direction.”
The East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust Clinical Nurse previously ran sessions at Preston college and is now looking to take the scheme out to the Blackburn and Burnley areas.
Despite skin cancer being one of the most common types there is real nationwide skin cancer screening programme in the UK, with many cases going undetected until it is too late.
Skin cancer is caused by too much exposure to UV light from the sun or sunbeds, so most cases are preventable, though rates have been increasing in recent years.
Experts recommend sun protection, such as clothes, hats, sunglasses, and using sun cream of at least factor 30. Keep an eye on your skin, and report to a doctor, without delay, any changes in the size, shape, or colour, of a mole, or other patch of skin.