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Raising awareness of skin cancer

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Michelle Forsyth is a Macmillan Skin Cancer Care Coordinator at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

michelle forsyth

michelle forsyth

Source: Macmillan

When I started as Macmillan Skin Cancer Care Coordinator in 2014, this was a new role for the department, developed in partnership by Macmillan Cancer Support, Blackpool CCG, Fylde and Wyre CCG and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals.

I work alongside the lead skin cancer specialist nurse in a clinical setting, providing support to patients throughout their cancer journey from when they first come to an urgent clinic to diagnosis and beyond.

As well as supporting the team through triaging calls and administrative support, a large part of my role is raising awareness of skin cancer and the need for sun protection. Blackpool and Fylde Coast has a high incidence of skin cancer, so addressing prevention through awareness is a priority.

I organise and attend a programme of events, reaching out to communities through GP surgeries, supermarkets and even Blackpool Zoo. This has proved invaluable and word of mouth has kept me very busy. I have also put together a training package with the help of the nurse specialist, which I deliver to teachers, college students, outdoor workers, nurses, hairdressers, beauticians and many others. Anyone who attends gets a basic knowledge of skin cancer and preventative measures.

For the past couple of years, I have been working with local nurseries and primary schools. And in March, I was honoured to be asked to be an ambassador for the Melanoma Charity SKCIN. They provide me with free resources to help raise awareness of skin cancer through education, promoting prevention and early detection.

SKCIN offers a free national accreditation for workplaces, schools and nurseries, which works well alongside our free Macmillan training sessions.

So far in the Fylde, there are seven accredited organisations that work with children, with more currently working through their accreditation. I feel that the Macmillan skin cancer training sessions that I have delivered are really making a difference.

The seven childcare settings were awarded with a special UV board and sun cream dispenser to encourage children to apply sun cream on a regular basis. The boards were funded by an awareness event I organised back in May this year, and I’m hoping to get these boards into every childcare setting on the Fylde coast.

Fairy Godmothers Home from Home Childcare was the first childcare setting on the Fylde coast to become sun safe. Owner and manager Linda Irvin said, ‘All of our parents and carers have embraced the Macmillan training session. Even our smallest children are promoting sun safety by wearing hats and sun cream and making shelters for shade.’

Local support has been overwhelming. I have been invited to talk at some local primary school assemblies, meaning I could reach more than 300 pupils, as well as staff, in one session. I’ve also attended sports days to promote the use of sun cream to children, parents and staff.

This very rewarding role allows me to keep up my clinical skills and never be too far away from patient care, which I love. I also feel I am making a difference to future generations and hopefully reducing the number of skin cancer patients.

I have experienced lots of positivity from the public in this role, as people recognise Macmillan and have confidence in the messages I am giving.

Jackie Brunton, Lead Cancer Nurse, says, ‘Michelle’s role is an excellent example of how support workers can work with medical and nursing teams to develop and enhance services and play a vital role in building programmes for awareness and prevention. Michelle’s knowledge and skills have gone from strength to strength and this model should continue to be considered for other areas.’

Heather Baines, Skin Cancer Specialist Nurse, adds, ’Education and raising awareness is vital to reducing the numbers of patients coming to us year on year. The dangers of sun exposure and using sunbeds are still a huge problem, especially with younger people. We need everyone to be aware that they need to protect their skin.

‘It’s so preventable and often treatable, but early detection remains paramount. Michelle’s role enables us to do this in a structured way and with resources that enable the consultants and our specialist nurse team to provide timely diagnostics and treatment.’

michell forsyth article

michell forsyth article

Source: Macmillan

Further information: Michelle Forsyth, Macmillan Skin Cancer Care Coordinator, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals

This article was featured in Mac Voice, our quarterly magazine for Macmillan health and social care professionals, showcasing their work and sharing good practice. Want to read more like this? Check the archives for more articles.

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