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Australia has the leading incidence of melanoma in the world, with Queensland skin cancer rates the highest in the country.
With an increasing patient load, and advancement in treatment, Princess Alexandra Hospital is providing more support for patients on their melanoma journey with a dedicated Nurse Navigator for the cancer service.
Nurse Practitioner and Melanoma Nurse Navigator, Hong Fu, has been in the role for just over 12 months, supporting patients with progressive disease from diagnosis to discharge.
“The transition in standard care for melanoma patients from traditional chemotherapy to immunotherapy and targeted therapies meant that a dedicated team was necessary for this cohort of patients.
“Since starting in this role in June last year, I now have over 100 patients in my care throughout their entire melanoma journey from post-surgery adjuvant therapy to hopefully discharge after five years in remission or, in some cases, admission to palliative care,” she said.
For Hong, the best part of the job is the ability to see patients improving each appointment.
“Melanoma patients present to medical oncology with either stage III or IV disease, some with unresected skin lesions.
“It’s exciting to see patients who respond well to systemic therapies with their skin lesions visibly shrinking over the course of treatment and leaving them only with a minimal, well healed scar,” she said.
Hong has been in the Oncology Department at PA Hospital since 2008, dedicating her focus to melanoma in 2015.
“In this role, I provide support on all levels to patients from organising social workers to ensuring their medical care is cohesive.
“Research tells us that patients with melanoma are different to other cancer patients in that they value informational care, followed by social and physical more so than other areas of support such as spirituality.
“Because of this, I continue to dedicate a lot of my time to research into the area, having published articles internationally on the topic,” she said.
Melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australia with an estimated 16 people diagnosed with the disease every 30 minutes.
With PA Hospital as a major melanoma centre for Queensland, Hong sees patients all the way from regional and rural areas of the state and into northern NSW.
“A big part of my job is to educate patients how to monitor and report their symptoms from home to ensure they can stay on top of the side effects of melanoma therapies.
“By empowering patients to manage their melanoma from the comfort of them home via continuous communication and Telehealth appointments, we are able to ensure patients aren’t having to make the long journey here without specific need,” she said.
For more information on accessing the Nurse Navigator service, visit www.metrosouth.health.qld.gov.au/referrals/nurse-navigators