Marion Foreman discusses how to support clients with checking their moles.
You might wonder why I am talking about this, but there are some really clear reasons. As PTs we look, endlessly, at our clients’ bodies. Every session we check form, we assess and we evaluate. And we notice. We can see that mole on the back of her leg that she might not even have noticed and, what’s more, we can see that it has changed colour – that it’s got bigger.
Would you say anything?
Some skin cancers are less serious but melanoma are life threatening. These skin cancers grow and invade, and they spread. Not only do they spread from their starting point outwards and inwards, but bits break off and spread throughout the body. These metastases can lodge in other body parts, such as lungs and liver, and cause dreadful damage. They can cause death.
So, what should we, as PTs, be doing? Do you comment on a client’s body? I bet you say something about them looking ripped or slimmer or more defined. Well, you can comment on their moles too. “I can’t help noticing that mole – is it troubling you?” is a good opening line.
The sooner your client gets the mole checked by their GP, the sooner any necessary next steps can be taken. Often, this might involve use of teledermatology, which is a method of photographing a mole and sending the photo to be read by both AI and a consultant dermatologist. If more investigation is needed, your client may well be put on a two-week wait list to be seen urgently by a hospital doctor to rule out cancer. This is, obviously, a stressful time and your client may well look to you for support. You don’t need to be an expert, nor should you dismiss their concerns. You might find it helpful to remind your client that being healthy is one of the best ways to deal with cancer and you can help with that. You will be with them if they need surgery to their mole/s in their prehabilitation phase and, again, after their surgery with rehabilitation.
One of the most common progressions of melanoma is that it invades the lymph nodes. This invasion requires extensive surgery, which can often result in lymphoedema (pooling of the lymph fluid in the affected limb/s). One of the most effective treatments for lymphoedema is exercise. Check out our cancer course and get the info you need to help.
And be with them if they need drug treatment or radiotherapy as well – once again, exercise can help with the debilitating side effects of the therapy needed to treat melanoma.
Of course, prevention is better than cure and using sunscreen and not using sunbeds are great first steps. It does no harm to remind your clients about looking after themselves; after all, you might well suggest not eating fast food, so why not mention skin protection as well?
So, if you see your role as a PT as one of health promotion, then check that mole. You might save a life.
But I haven’t quite finished. While you are checking your client, can I please ask you keep an eye out for bruises? My next blog will look at domestic abuse and I reckon we have a responsibility there too.
Marion Foreman has been a practicing nurse for almost 50 years mostly working in the fields of palliative care and cancer. Marion has lectured for both the Open University and Homerton School of Health Studies about health and social care and about death and dying. Marion has held a senior nursing position as a lead cancer nurse and has personal experience of living with someone with advanced cancer. Ten years ago, Marion trained as a personal trainer and specialised in Cancer Rehab. She currently runs three online exercise circuit classes for people who are living with cancer and offers support to many of them individually. She has a great involvement in the development of cancer care in hospitals local to her.
Marion’s passion is twofold; one is to make sure that any client can say ‘I have cancer’ and we don’t fall apart, that we can ask focused questions and consider what help we are able to offer, based on sound knowledge. The other is to help other fitness professionals to develop coping strategies so that when someone you have a professional relationship turns to you and asks you to help them to stay as healthy as possible whilst they deal with their cancer, you are robust and confident.