Stage IA melanoma follow-up: Exploring the level of confidence of South Australian general practitioners in undertaking surveillance skin checks including considerations for shared care

Australas J Dermatol. 2023 May;64(2):e135-e144. doi: 10.1111/ajd.14026. Epub 2023 Apr 1.


Background: The literature highlights the role of Australian general practitioners (GP) in the management of skin cancers. With melanoma incidences on the rise, there have been discussions into whether lower-risk stage IA patients could safely be followed up by their GPs for annual surveillance full skin examinations (FSE). This study explores the level of confidence of South Australian (SA) GPs in undertaking FSEs including factors that could support discussions around shared care between GPs and dermatology units for lower-risk patients.

Methods: An online survey was designed and distributed to SA GPs via email, newsletters and social media between 5 December 2021 and 30 January 2022. Descriptive statistics were used to describe survey responses. Pearson's Chi-squared analysis was used to investigate associations between key variables of interest and explanatory variables. Logistic regression analysis was used to model odds ratios for associations between the dependent variable and independent variables.

Results: A total of 135 responses were obtained. Forty-four per cent of GPs were comfortable undertaking annual FSEs, 41% were uncomfortable and 15% were unsure. Scope of work, >20 years experience and additional training had statistically significant relationships (p < 0.05). Dermoscopy and detecting melanoma recurrences were reported to be skills with lower levels of confidence. With regards to shared care, 77% indicated that they would feel supported undertaking FSEs if rapid access referral pathways were allocated for patients who developed suspicious lesions. Preferred upskilling modalities included, face-to-face sessions in a dermatology unit (39%), dermatologist run webinars (25%) and certificate courses (20%).

Conclusions: At present, there is a subset of SA GPs who are comfortable undertaking FSEs and therefore could be engaged in shared care with specialists. Further considerations have to be made in the areas of upskilling and supporting the workforce to enhance engagement in shared care.

Keywords: Australia; dermatologists; general practitioners; melanoma; skin neoplasm; surveys and questionnaires.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • General Practitioners*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / diagnosis
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant
  • Skin Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / therapy
  • South Australia
  • Surveys and Questionnaires