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From patient to advocate

Tuesday 06 October 2020

Having had four melanomas in his life Rod Flude is keen to do whatever he can to advance the future of skin cancer diagnosis, treatments and research.

The 61-year-old who was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2005 said a large part of his motivation to help advance skin cancer research through volunteering to participate in medical studies is his family, which is why he is particularly interested in genetic research like the work undertaken by the University of Queensland Dermatology Research Centre (DRC) genetic counsellor Dr Aideen McInerney-Leo and others in the space.

I have three daughters, and a beautiful two-year-old grandchild. All of which are fair-haired, they don't have their father's skin, some of them but my middle daughter is very pale, very blonde," he said.

"I'm hell-bent on doing whatever I can do to help them and their descendants, I guess, coming up with cures and prevention, that drives me to participate in all these things."

Rod has been involved in two trials of the VECTRA 3D 360 Whole Body Imaging System, at the PA Hospital campus and is a massive advocate for the roll-out of the system due to its ability to help identify potential melanomas.

"I've had four melanomas. The first one was a level two, which was just picked up by pure chance," he said.

"The ones they found; they've been embedded in a nevi mole which is a fairly nondescript freckly looking mole. I didn't have the classic black melanoma looking thing.

"I don't think I'm capable of detecting melanoma on myself. I've mentioned that to many of the physicians which is why I think things like that VECTRA are just incredibly important, going forward."

With his first melanoma identified at a mole clinic, Rod had three minor identified melanomas removed before being referred to Dr Greg Siller who suggested he participate in DRC studies undertaken at the PAH, including the Changing Nevi study and the original VECTRA Imaging System prototype.

"If you look at the new VECTRA these days compared to the old one, it looked pretty basic. It was just a whole bunch of cameras set up on scaffolding and then boom, take your photos, and away you go," he said.

"Interestingly, they also did genetic testing on the Changing Nevi Study, I'm very interested in that. As it could identify genes across my daughters, my grandchild, that makes them more susceptible apart from having blue eyes, fair hair, and fair skin.

"I found that hugely interesting in how they're starting to match up the genomic measures on how that all works."

Rod who puts his melanomas down to a youth spent on the beaches of the Gold Coast with little to no sun protection, said genetic testing is fascinating to him because as well as melanoma other health issues seem to run in the family, with his daughter and sister being treated for bowel polyps and the same sister having had a melanoma diagnosis.

"That's why I'll continue to do whatever I can do to help the cause. And the reality is I'm not too far off retirement now and I've spent my whole life in the corporate world pretty much so I'm now sort of looking for interests to support the cause even deeper if I can.

"I'm talking to people like "Melanoma Patients Australia" to see what I can do to help their cause somewhere down the path. It's a really good cause, and I'm interested in trying to promote anything that helps."

Attending melanoma forums showed Rod just how lucky he was to get through his melanoma scares relatively unscathed but having had four melanomas removed he is a massive advocate of the sun safe message as well as making the use of the VECTRA Imaging System standardised practice.

"The last forum I went to they had some pretty interesting participants. I mean, some of them have been through some terrible situations with very advanced melanoma," he said.

"My view of the world is, especially now, is that the VECTRA imaging systems should be all over the place.

"People are reluctant for some reason to get checked out; people think that they can spot a melanoma, they think that they're obvious and they're not. By the time they get to level four, they might be, but you don't want to get them at level four when your life's at risk."

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