Skin cancer clinics investigation

Skin clinics claim to help identify and treat skin cancers. How good are they?
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  • Updated:18 Jan 2008


In brief

  • Research has shown that GPs and skin cancer clinic doctors diagnose skin cancer with similar accuracy.
  • If you go to a skin clinic, make sure you’re informed about the doctor, the costs and any tests or procedures recommended.
  • If you’re in any doubt about a diagnosis or recommended procedure, get a second opinion.

Given the prevalence of skin cancer and the increasing profile of these clinics in Australia, it’s not surprising there’s a huge demand for information about this industry — in the last financial year The Cancer Council NSW received 3974 calls about skin cancer to its helpline, 2251 (57%) of which were specifically about skin cancer clinics.

Please note: this information was current as of January 2008 but is still a useful guide today.

What are skin cancer clinics?

  • Skin cancer clinics provide a convenient one-stop shop for skin checks and a variety of procedures, including biopsies and skin cancer removals.
  • Many clinics offer the latest digital technology to assist in examining skin spots. Some even have the facilities to store images of your spots for future comparison.
  • While many services, including the initial consultation, are usually bulk-billed, you’ll pay for some procedures, such as biopsies.
  • There are no regulations about who can set up these clinics — they range from small, independent operations to those that are part of large corporate chains.
  • Contrary to popular belief, doctors working in skin cancer clinics aren’t usually specialists — they’re primarily GPs. And there are no particular requirements for training or certification of the doctors who work there.
  • Skin clinics and the doctors working in them have received some bad press in the last few years, with concerns raised about the type and quality of work performed within the clinics, and suggestions that they’re carrying out procedures on patients that aren’t medically necessary, simply to maximise income.

To make our own assessment, we sent a shadow shopper to various skin cancer clinics to see what experiences she had. See Our shadow shop for details.



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