My journey with The Mole Clinic began with their full body MOLECheck service; two of my moles were deemed suspicious and their TELEDerm service was used for further diagnosis. I was then given an urgent referral to a dermatologist and opted to have one of the moles removed at The Mole Clinic. Read on to hear about my experience in full.
Private Skin Cancer Screening – Why?
For as long as I can remember I’ve lived with the fear of developing skin cancer. I don’t think that’s wholly unnatural given the circumstances of my childhood – melanoma caused my Mother’s death when I was very young and the possible genetics mean that I could be twice as likely as your average female to develop a melanoma of my own. Add my fair skin and Father’s plethora of (perfectly safe, so far, touch wood) atypical moles into the equation and you can understand why my moles cause me a lot of anxiety.
Now, it’s fair to say I know quite a lot about the signs of melanoma. I know to follow the ABCDE method to check my skin; looking for moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, are changing in colour, size or elevation. But I find it hard to apply those rules to my own skin – I have quite a lot of moles to keep track of and some of them have always been on the abnormal side of things (like the A-OK wacky moles of my Dad).
Of course, if you have a mole (or two, or three) that you’re concerned about, your GP is perfectly qualified, willing and able to check them and give you a referral if necessary. I’m not dismissing the NHS here, I’ve been there, done that for myself (and with my Dad). The problem is, I’m worried about nearly all of my moles nearly all of the time and, as it stands, the NHS doesn’t offer any sort of full body screening service for those not yet diagnosed with skin cancer.
Here’s the thing, my Mother did everything right. Got a reasonably early melanoma diagnosis, had the mole removed, then a bit extra removed as a precaution, was given the all clear, (was even used in the press as an example of how easily skin cancer can be treated …); but the damn cancer still spread and she was dead before anyone could have possibly anticipated. She was unlucky, very very unlucky. Skin cancer is very curable if caught early, but that’s the thing – I don’t feel qualified to catch it early enough and that’s where The Mole Clinic comes in.
The Mole Clinic
The Mole Clinic is an award winning London based service that acts as a sort of ‘one stop shop’ for all things mole related. Their main Moorgate and Oxford Circus branches offer mole checking, mapping, and removal all under one roof.
Fed up with the stress my moles were causing me I booked in for the full body MOLECheck at their Oxford Circus branch at a cost of £135.
Firstly, I was very impressed with their appointment availability – their Oxford Circus branch is seemingly open on alternate Saturdays which is super convenient if, like me, you don’t live or work in London. The online booking system is seamless and I easily paid the £45 appointment deposit via PayPal. I also found their text message appointment reminders very reassuring because, you know, it’s always nice to know someone is expecting you to turn up.
The Oxford Circus clinic is located right next to the Palladium (that’s oddly reassuring for a theatre fan like me!), it’s a simple push the ‘Mole Clinic’ button and the door will unlock situation (please tell me I’m not the only one with undue anxiety about getting into buildings) and the clinic is located on the first floor. Both times I attended the clinic I was seen on time and the receptionists were always lovely, efficient and went out of their way to offer me tea/coffee. I’ve never attended a more relaxing, stress-free, medical environment.
The Mole Clinic MOLECheck
I was seen by a very competent nurse who began by asking me some questions about my family history, sun exposure, and moles. I was asked to undress to my underwear before she thoroughly checked all of my moles with a dermascope (you have the option of having more intimate areas checked if you think it’s necessary). She was very reassuring, excellent at explaining what I should be looking for when checking my own skin and gave me plenty of chance to ask questions.
She found two moles that she thought warranted further investigation, explained meticulously where she thought they fell on the scale of ‘normal to melanoma’ and reassured me that any further action would be precautionary (but for the best).
The Mole Clinic TELEDerm
The further investigation comes in the form of The Mole Clinic’s TELEDerm service. The process is exactly the same as if you were going to The Mole Clinic for a single mole check. They basically take an in-depth photograph of the suspicious mole (with a lens attached to what looked like an iPhone) which gets sent off to a specialist for diagnosis. It can be done right there and then in the same appointment as your MOLECheck and is super quick and easy.
If I have one criticism of The Mole Clinic it’s that it’s easy to incur costs without really realising. I’d done my research so knew that this further investigation cost £30 per mole in addition to the £135 for my Mole Check, but this extra fee was not mentioned at all until I brought it up. Their pricing is very transparent if you go looking for it, but they’re not very forthright in providing it face to face at the time the costs are incurred.
I was told I would receive the TELEDerm results within three working days though they beat that and I was called with my results within two. The same nurse I saw in person explained that I’d been given an urgent referral to a dermatologist for one of my moles. The specialist thought it was probably benign but it had several atypical attributes so removal and a biopsy was recommended in order to fully rule out melanoma. They think the second mole is probably normal but it has an odd attribute that we need to keep an eye on so I’ll be going back in three months to have it re-imaged.
I was emailed an extensive report with the TELEDerm images, diagnosis, and referral which I could have taken to my GP to continue my treatment on the NHS. However, through past experience, we know that the dermatology services at my local hospital are quite stressful and inefficient. I wanted all of this over and done with so I opted to continue my treatment privately with The Mole Clinic.
The Mole Clinic Mole Removal
I was able to get a mole removal appointment for the week following my TELEDerm results, again at the Oxford Circus clinic. I had to pay the £125 consultation fee upfront and was told the cost of the procedure would depend on the method of removal used. They weren’t particularly forthright about pricing over the phone but I emailed the practice to get a full breakdown of the possible scenarios and they responded with a detailed, transparent response. Just ask them if you’re in any doubt how much anything will cost!
On the day I was seen by a very amiable plastic surgeon and a nurse. He didn’t think the mole was quite as concerning as the TELEDerm suggested so I was given the option of keeping an eye on it for six more months. At that point I just wanted to be rid of it so had it removed there and then, a decision he fully supported.
The process itself was very simple. Aside from the injection of local anesthetic, I didn’t feel a thing and even then the nurse was very well timed with her distracting small talk (for which I was most appreciative!). I had the mole fully removed and had to have stitches which meant the process cost £460 on top of the initial consultation fee (it’s cheaper if you don’t need the stitches). In less than half an hour I was back walking the streets of London.
I received the results of the biopsy eight days later and was given the all clear – a massive, massive, weight off my mind. I’d seen my GP about this mole three years ago, she briefly glanced at it and decided it didn’t warrant a referral. But that didn’t stop me worrying about it – it was pretty odd looking and, as I told her, had been changing over time.
Is Private Skin Cancer Screening With The Mole Clinic Worth It?
Essentially I paid £780 to get to the same conclusion as my GP did in 5 minutes. I know that. But by not investigating the issue my GP didn’t ‘know’ that that mole wasn’t cancerous or even atypical (atypical moles can have a higher chance of becoming malignant over time). Now we ‘know’ it was benign and that’s a huge weight off my mind.
The Mole Clinic are meticulous, if something doesn’t look quite right they’ll suggest it’s investigated and (for obvious reasons) that’s how serious I want to be about my own moles. I don’t want to take any chances, at all. Regular screenings with The Mole Clinic will enable me to be in control, ahead of the game. I fully intend to return each year for my annual MOLECheck, the £135 is a small price to pay for the reassurance delivered by their immaculate services.