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Shedding Light on Suspicious Moles

Three members of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's medical illustration department have received national recognition for innovation for developing a specialised photographic service to help doctors to diagnose and treat patients with suspected melanoma. Simon Dove, who heads the hospital's medical illustration team, and photographers Michael Smith and Emily Phillips have been awarded the small team award in the 2009 Healthcare Scientist awards for innovation and technology for their work to produce dermatoscopic images of moles.

The hospital is the first in the east of England to use a combination of photographic techniques to achieve such high-quality images.

The challenge for us was to build this technique into our regular service which we provide for our Dermatology unit but at the same time without a compromise on quality. Having made initial tests with a basic demonstration kit that was given to us to look at it was clear that the quality was not up to our expectations so we had to investigate this further and try different lens combinations with the proper photo adapter kit, this proved more costly but put us on the right path in achieving the results we were aiming for. We eventually came up with a lens, step ring and technique combination that gave us a sharp image which we are happy with said Simon.

Simons had to request additional funding so a dedicated unit could always be available to record these images. Simon goes on to say I didnt want us to have to chop and change lenses and have to fit the Dermlite photo unit to the camera on every occasion as it would just be a question of time before it was dropped and broken. We were very fortunate that the Dermatology department brought us a dedicated camera and photo adapter kit which is now permanently set up and ready to record these images at a moments notice.

Photographic techniques have been used for some time to measure and monitor suspicious moles but the new techniques go a step further, allowing us to review the magnified images on an enlarged screen during our multidisciplinary meetings and make better team decisions about how the patients moles should be treated, explained consultant dermatologist Nick Levell.

Currently around 180 new melanomas are diagnosed and about 1,000 moles are removed each year at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

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Clinical photography, design and video in healthcare