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Open Access Short report

Predictors of skin self-examination before and after a melanoma diagnosis: the role of medical advice and patient’s level of education

Annett Körner1234*, Adina Coroiu1, Claudia Martins5 and Beatrice Wang67

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, McGill University, Montréal, Canada

2 Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research-Jewish General Hospital, Montréal, Canada

3 Louise-Granofsky-Psychosocial Oncology Program, Segal Cancer Centre, Montréal, Canada

4 Psychosocial Oncology Program, McGill University Health Centre, Montréal, Canada

5 Department of Gynecology-Oncology, McGill University Health Centre, Montréal, Canada

6 Department of Dermatology, McGill University, Montréal, Canada

7 Melanoma Clinic, McGill University Health Centre, Montréal, Canada

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International Archives of Medicine 2013, 6:8  doi:10.1186/1755-7682-6-8

Published: 27 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Cutaneous melanoma is the fastest growing tumor of the skin and the median life span of patients with advanced disease is less than a year. Melanoma-related mortality can be reduced through early detection via clinical skin exams and patient self-examination. Despite the potential to reducing the medical burden associated with clinical skin exams, systematic and regular skin self-examinations (SSE) are rarely performed. The current study examined psychosocial predictors of SSE and changes in SSE behavior from pre- to post-diagnosis in order to guide future melanoma prevention initiatives.

Findings

A consecutive sample of 47 melanoma survivors was drawn from a tertiary care clinic. Most melanomas had been detected by patients, spouses and other laypersons. Higher education was related to more frequent SSE at pre-diagnosis, more thorough SSE at post-diagnosis, and more frequent reports of having been advised to perform SSE at post-diagnosis. SSE behaviors increased significantly from pre- to post-diagnosis.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that different patient subgroups display varied knowledge base, readiness for change, and receptiveness for medical advice. Thus, interventions seeking to enhance skin self-exam practice may be most effective when the individual’s psychosocial characteristics are taken into account.

Keywords:
Melanoma; Skin self-exam; Medical advice; Education level