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GPs should use a dermatoscope to examine suspicious skin lesions

10 March 2014

Skin cancer is becoming increasingly common and so GPs are seeing more patients with potentially malignant skin lesions. The dermatoscope is a valuable instrument for examining these lesions. It leads to less interventions like referrals and surgical procedures to remove them. These are the findings of research carried out by trainee GP Cecile Koelink from the UMCG, who would like to see more attention paid to this diagnostic tool in GP training. She was awarded a PhD for her thesis on this research by the University of Groningen on 10 March.

It is estimated that one in six Dutch people will develop skin cancer at some time in their lives. In the Netherlands, patients must first visit a GP to have ‘suspicious’ skin lesions examined and assessed. On average, GPs see six to seven of these cases a week, and this figure is set to rise. But GPs do not usually have the best instruments for examining these ‘suspicious’ lesions.

Koelink looked into whether GPs (and patients) would benefit from using a dermatoscope for the initial examination and diagnosis of skin lesions. A dermatoscope is a type of magnifying glass that enables the doctor to see through the upper layer of skin and examine structures that are not visible to the naked eye. It is an instrument that is routinely used by dermatologists.

Koelink’s research showed that a dermatoscope would also be a valuable instrument for GPs. She concludes that using this instrument would lead to fewer patients being referred to a hospital specialist and fewer suspicious lesions being surgically removed by the GP.

In view of her results, Koelink is arguing for better guidelines for diagnosing skin cancer. She would also like to see more attention paid to this common, and potentially lethal, skin disorder during the training for doctors and GPs.

Cecile Koelink studied Medicine at the University of Groningen. She conducted her research in the Department of General Practice of the UMCG. Her research was funded by SBOH, employer of GP trainees, and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMW). Her thesis is entitled ‘Diagnosing skin cancer in general practice’. She is currently training to become a GP.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.34 p.m.
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