Sun shines on skin checks

Sun shines on skin checks

The Lions brought their mobile skin check van to the Limestone Coast last week, visiting Lucindale for the South East Field Days, Mount Gambier and Beachport. The SE Voice’s owner/editor Lechelle Earl thought she’d take the opportunity to have a potentially life saving check, and outline the process.

Several weeks ago I received a message from our local Lions club the service club’s skin check van was headed our way, and of course I wanted to inform the community through The SE Voice of its impending arrival.

The van travels the country offering free skin check services, especially to those in rural and remote areas with limited access to specialist skin care professionals.

It is operated by fully trained, certified and professionally supervised volunteers.

As it tours around, the unit also serves as a valuable resource for local people to access not only the skin check, but timely information about skin care and self-checking techniques.

Each skin check unit visit is hosted by the local Lions Club, in this case it was the Lions Club of Mount Gambier and the Lions of Blue Lake City Lionesses working together, and full-body skin checks are conducted for the people booked.

Fully trained dermoscopists, who operate hand-held microscopes to check over the skin, identify any suspect lesions and refer people on to doctors if any are found.

It had been playing on my mind that it has been several years since I have had a skin check, and as someone with fair skin who burns and freckles easily, I thought it might be a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity.

After arriving at the van, I filled in a simple form and then waited to be seen, making the most of the chance to have a lovely chat with the Lioness ladies who were “manning” the reception area.

Once my number was called I was led into the purpose built van and greeted by my “checker” Chris Haar.

I immediately felt at ease with Chris, despite having to strip down to my knickers and bra, before she set about checking me over from top to toe.

Chris is a retired rural and remote nurse practitioner, having spent 30 years working across Western Australia in locations such as Australia’s hottest place Marble Bar, Fitzroy Crossing Great Victorian Desert and Norseman before ending up in Coober Pedy.

She now lives in Renmark and volunteers her time with the van, giving back to the community while using her medical skills.

“I do it because if I can stop one person from dying of melanoma I’m happy,” she tells me.

Chris asked me three questions: Have you previously had a melanoma? Is there a history of melanoma in your family? And have you been sunburned and blistered as a child?

I have not had a melanoma, nor is there any family history, however I do recall falling asleep on a sunlounge on a houseboat in my teens, only to wake with terribly sunburnt legs which went red as a tomato and then came out in horrendous blisters.


Chris told me that a lot of the damage to our skin is often done in childhood, when we get too much sun, resulting in problems later on.

Now, when I say that Chris checked me over from top to toe I’m not exaggerating.

Dermascope in hand she checked the bottom of my feet and in between my toes, where sometimes melanoma can lurk undetected for some time as we do not often look at our soles nor in between our toes, meaning that often they can become quite established.

Chris tells me a good habit to get into is either getting someone to check the soles of your feet, or putting them in front of a mirror regularly to make sure there were no nasty surprises.

She checked my entire body both front and back, inside my mouth including under my tongue, and through my scalp as well as in my eyes.

My hands also got a thorough inspection, including my finger nails, which can sometimes hide melanomas underneath nail polish – so make sure you check for any marks near the cuticles any time you remove your polish.

After checking me over and giving me some information about what to keep an eye out for I was out the door – all done in 15 minutes.

Speaking with Lions Club of Mount Gambier president Beccy Field after my check up, she told me that appointments for the van’s visit had been booked out within 2.5 hours, prompting the volunteers to open another half day session.

Meanwhile the van headed to Beachport over the weekend, and again the appointments were booked out even before they arrived.

The van was also booked out at Lucindale, where 17% of those seen were referred to doctors for a range of potential skin cancers.

Scary stuff.

Oh, and just for the record, I got the all clear for my skin check.

Nothing suspicious to report – thank goodness, but more importantly, thank you to the Lions for bringing a potentially life saving service to our region.

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