Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A study for people recently diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer to find out what made them go to the doctor
This study looked at why some people prolong going to their doctor (GP) when they have a symptom that could be melanoma. This study was supported by Cancer Research UK as part of the National Awareness and Early Detection Initiative (NAEDI).
Doctors know that the earlier melanoma is detected, the easier it is to treat. In this study researchers wanted to look at what made some people go to their GP sooner than others.
The aims of the study were to
- Find out why some people go to their GP sooner than others
- Find out if information about melanoma should be improved to help people to decide to go to their GP sooner
- Compare the experiences of people with thinner melanomas (measuring less than 1mm across) with those of people who have thicker melanomas (measuring more than 2mm across)
Summary of results
The study team found that there were a lot of reasons why people prolonged going to the doctor when they have a symptom that could be melanoma. People with both thinner and thicker melanomas didn’t recognise their skin changes at first as warning signs to see their GP. The study suggests there is a difference between the information people need when assessing changes to their skin and the information and images currently available.
63 people took part in this study. They had all been recently diagnosed with melanoma. The researchers interviewed everybody and asked
- What their early skin changes looked like, and how they changed over time
- If other members of their family had melanoma
- What they know about melanoma
- Who they talked to about their skin changes before deciding to go to the doctor
- What made them go to the doctor
The main reasons that people prolonged going to the doctor were that
- They weren’t sure what had caused the change to their skin and put it down to life changes such as getting older or pregnancy
- The skin change didn’t match the image of what they thought a melanoma looked like
- They were too busy with other things
- They didn’t want to waste their GP’s time
The study team also found that
- Many people went to see their doctor because family or friends told them to get the skin change checked out
- 11 people had already seen a health care professional about the skin change and had been told that it was nothing to worry about. Few were told how to keep an eye on the mole or when to see the doctor again
- Some people knew about the signs and symptoms of melanoma such as jagged edges or a change in the colour of a mole, but only a few knew that an itchy or bleeding mole was a bad sign
- Most people said that their skin change didn’t match the images that they had in their mind of what a melanoma looked like. These images were based on pictures they had seen, information they had read or a family member or friend who had melanoma
In this study, most people diagnosed with melanoma didn’t think that their skin changes were worth worrying about to begin with. The study team suggest that improving information and images of early melanomas and encouraging people to see their doctor straight away with these skin changes could help melanoma to be diagnosed earlier.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Dr Fiona Walter
National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI)
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
University of Cambridge