Effect of a public awareness campaign on the appropriateness of patient-initiated skin examination in general practice

The aim of the study was to describe the appropriateness of patient-initiated skin examinations, and assess whether an awareness program leads to a greater proportion of inappropriate patient-initiated skin examinations. General practitioners (n = 27, response rate 71 per cent) from a regional town in Queensland recorded details of consultations involving a skin examination over a five-week period straddling the 1991 National Skin Cancer Awareness Week. The outcome measure was the clinical impression (benign, suspicious or malignant) of the most serious skin lesion presented by each general practice patient (n = 1183). Thirty-six per cent of patient-presented lesions were clinically suspicious or malignant. Lesions were more likely to be clinically suspicious or malignant if they were presented as the primary reason for the consultation (odds ratio OR = 1,219.95 per cent confidence interval (CI) 1.01 to 1.48); if the patient was aged over 35 years (OR = 5.594, CI 1.08 to 7.66); or male (OR = 1.634, CI 1.35 to 2.00). Following a public skin cancer awareness campaign, there was a slight nonsignificant decrease (OR 0.938, CI 0.91 or 1.25) in the proportion of clinically suspicious and malignant lesions detected. An increase in the number of skin examinations following an awareness campaign did not result in an increase in the proportion of inappropriate skin examinations. Patient-initiated skin examinations have an important role to play in the early detection of skin cancer
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