Spotting Skin Cancer

by Victoria Armstrong, Founder & Practice Manager at Bristol Massage Therapy

I’ve said it before, and I’m happy to say it’s still true - I really do have a love of learning and geek out on all things massage / bodywork / biology / human related on a regular basis. As many of my clients can attest! Continued Professional Development (CPD) is not something that I undertake purely because I have to, but something with which I actively engage.

As a member of the Massage Training Institute (MTI), I am required to undertake at least 18 hours of CPD each year. I have recently updated my CPD record and realised that the least I have actually undertaken in any year was just 38 hours - the year after I qualified - and that I’ve recorded more than 100 hours twice already! That’s just the stuff I track. That’s not the researching of articles, reading of books, trade magazine and the such like.

The thing is, this passion isn’t limited to just myself, but is prevalent across the Bristol Massage Therapy team. Recently, this love of learning saw several of us attending the latest regional meeting of the MTI.

How to spot Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Awareness for Massage Therapists was a talk given by skin cancer nurse and skin cancer consultant from Southmead Hospital who very generously gave up their time to talk to us about how to spot the early signs of skin cancer, and when we might want to suggest our clients talk to their GP.

I’ll be honest. I found out that this wonderful duo ran a very similar workshop last year for tattoo artists. At the time I was the West Country representative for the MTI and as such, started work to see whether we could get something similar set-up for us, which culminated in last month’s event.

It makes perfect sense that massage therapists and other body workers regularly see and touch the skin of our clients, and regularly in areas which we might not easily be able to see ourselves. When was the last time you had a good look at your back! As such, we may often be one of the first people who might spot any changes that occur in these hard to see areas. Knowing what we might want to look out for seemed like a very good idea.

There are actually several forms of skin cancer, but the most common form and most well known is called Melanoma. It is actually the fifth most common cancer in the UK, as well as the most prevalent skin cancer in people under 50.

Don't panic

Whether it is relating to headaches that you are experiencing, persistent symptoms of pain or discomfort, or possible alterations or blemishes on your skin, occasionally we might suggest you ask someone else - an expert. As massage therapists we are not in the habit of making diagnoses, indeed we are neither qualified nor insured to do so. Which is why we will always err on the side of caution and may sometimes suggest that you seek out an expert - a physiotherapist, your GP, or perhaps even a talking therapy specialist.

So, if at any point, any of the Bristol Massage Therapy practitioners mention that you might want to discuss something with your GP, please don’t panic. We aren't saying there's anything wrong, just encouraging you to rule out a possibility. But please do follow it up.