Ken Hubley of Stanhope, who was treated for melanoma skin cancer 30 years ago, says early detection is key. Dr. Trina Stewart, a family physician in P.E.I. says people need to monitor any moles they have on their body and note any changes whatsoever.
©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Ken Hubley said he found out the hard way that early diagnosis is essential when it comes to cancer.
Thirty years ago, a doctor noticed a mole on Hubley's thigh during a routine medical examination. It was innocuous, no bigger than the nail on his baby finger.
"I had a biopsy done and it came back that it was malignant, it was skin cancer,'' the Stanhope resident told The Guardian following a press conference in Charlottetown on Wednesday to unveil the latest numbers from the Canadian Cancer Society.
"I needed to have it dealt with right away. I had surgery. It was very radical, fairly aggressive. I lost a portion of my thigh muscle and skin flaps. I wouldn't want anyone else to go through any type of disfiguration.''
He's kept an eye out for any abnormal moles since, watched his sun exposure, stays out of the sun midday and always slathers on the sun screen.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 900 Islanders will be diagnosed with cancer and approximately 370 will die from the disease this year. Of these newly diagnosed cases, more than half will be prostate, lung, colorectal and breast cancers.
Melanoma skin cancer is one of the fastest rising of all cancers in Canada. In P.E.I., the situation is even more troubling. The rate of melanoma in Island men, like Hubley, is 50 per cent higher than the national average.
In 2014, 40 new cases (25 males; 15 females) of melanoma will be diagnosed in this province.
Lori Barker, executive director of the P.E.I. branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, says skin cancer, including melanoma is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Big risk factors include UV radiation from overexposure to the sun and other sources, such as indoor tanning beds.
Barker said mortality rates of breast cancer, women with colorectal cancer and prostate cancer among men are significantly higher than the national average.
"That presents very serious concerns for the cancer society and that's certainly why we're wanting to see that cancer control strategy here in P.E.I., to really address those variances,'' Barker said.
The cancer society is focusing on melanoma skin cancer this year.
Experts point to a number of factors as reasons why it's on the rise in P.E.I. people go to the beach and golf while the primary industries include outdoor activities such as farming and fishing. Simply put, Islanders spend a lot of time in the sun.
Dr. Trina Stewart, a family physician, says Islanders need to spend more time performing self examinations.
"If you have a mole and it changes in any way, you need to get it looked at,'' Stewart said, referring to changes in asymmetry, border, colour, diameter and whether they evolve to bleeding, itching or crusting.
Stewart added that people need to apply sun block year-round, using a 30-50-minute sunblock and re-appling after exiting water or every two hours.
Stewart also noted that there is currently no dermatologist in the province but that might change early next year.
Barker said there is some good news.
"There's a decline and continued decline in mortality rates for the majority of cancers and a stabilization around the incidence rates. Those are very positive things.''