The Lions help save lives through mobile skin cancer check unit

Annual Review stories Community stories: 6 October 2021

Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, and more than 2,000 Australians die from this disease each year. If diagnosis occurs early, the fatality rate is significantly reduced. Outside Melbourne, skin specialists are limited with just 15 out of 199 dermatologists in Victoria holding clinics in eight country towns and centres. On top of this, there are no publicly funded skin cancer check programs in Victoria.

The Districts of Lions International in Victoria and Southern New South Wales identified a distinct need for a mobile skin cancer check and awareness unit to operate across Victoria and Southern NSW, and in particular, in remote areas and towns and centres not serviced, or fully serviced, by dermatologists or other skin specialists. In 2019, a group of trustees representing the five Lions Victorian districts and Southern NSW established the Lions V District Cancer Foundation Inc (LVDC). Its remit is to deliver improved health outcomes in rural areas by offering access to free skin cancer check-ups.

They received $25,000 in funds through FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities program, funded by The William Buckland Foundation (managed by Equity Trustees), to convert a van into a mobile screening clinic and purchase a truck to take it from town to town. The FRRR grant enabled the LVDC Foundation to leverage further grants, with the target total of $350,000 raised and exceeded with thanks to several corporate philanthropic donors, local Lions Club members and matched funding from the Lions Clubs International Foundation.

The screening van contains three examination areas equipped with dermascopes, enabling easier detection of suspect skin lesions. As Murray Baud, Assistant Treasurer & Foundation Trustee explained in the acquittal report, they canvassed and trained up volunteer dermoscopists who were willing to offer their services.

“With the appointments of a Screening Visit Coordinator and Driver Coordinator, the unit is now being booked by Lions Clubs across Victoria. The coordinators manage the process and identify screeners and driver logistics to maximise the efficiency of the unit as it travels. The unit was booked out for 2020 and has many reservations now in 2021 and even 2022.

“We took the mobile clinic to Canberra for the national Lions Convention, promoting a potential project for our northern states of NSW and Queensland. Media personality Deborah Hutton, who suffered from aggressive facial skin cancers, spoke in support of the project, and has now become an ambassador for the Lions Australia Skin Cancer projects.”

At the time writing, they’ve run 19 screening sessions in different rural towns, screening 1,005 people with 372 referrals to specialists.