Illawarra man Troy Johnson left with cancer treatment scar

Troy Johnson has a 20-centimetre scar on the side of his face after treatment for a skin cancer went wrong. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR
Troy Johnson has a 20-centimetre scar on the side of his face after treatment for a skin cancer went wrong. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Illawarra real estate agent Troy Johnson is used to people asking if he's been "glassed" but he didn't get the U-shaped scar that runs along the side of his face in a bar fight.

Four years ago the director of Ray White Woonona visited a South Coast skin cancer clinic to get a small pink spot just under his jawbone checked.

The GP he consulted at the clinic in August 2010 took a biopsy that revealed he had a squamous cell carcinoma, a type of non-melanoma skin cancer that is generally not life-threatening.

Subsequent treatment for the spot by the doctor resulted in the long curved scar on his face and neck, the long ragged stitch marks of which are still visible today.

After seeing an article in Saturday's Mercury recounting a Shellharbour woman's similar experience at a skin cancer clinic, he felt he had to speak out.

"I lost my sister to breast cancer so when I discovered I had cancer on the side of my face, I just wanted it gone," Mr Johnson said.

"The doctor told me he could do it and as it was a three-millimetre spot it didn't enter my head that I'd end up with a 15-centimetre scar with such large stitch marks.

"And the experience was traumatic - there wasn't enough anaesthetic and I felt every cut. When he cauterised it I screamed."

That afternoon the stitching started to come undone and Mr Johnson had to apply pressure for some time to stop the bleeding. A few days later a foul smell started to come from the site.

"I went back to the doctor and he just changed the dressing. When the gauze was removed and I looked in the mirror I was gutted ... the area was massively swollen for months and there was a large haematoma underneath it."

The carcinoma returned and a few months ago Mr Johnson consulted a dermatologist in Kiama who used the Mohs technique to remove it, which resulted in minimal scarring.

Kiama MP Gareth Ward aired the case of Shellharbour's Janelle Trigg in Parliament on June 19. Ms Trigg underwent two operations and spent thousands to fix up a scar left after treatment for a white spot of skin on her nose by Dr Jeremy Reader at Wollongong Skin Cancer Clinic.

Mr Ward is leading a charge to ensure that all skin cancer clinics are properly regulated.

"What was clear in Janelle's case was that we have a GP undertaking a procedure which, according to dermatologist Dr Edmund Lobel, he should not have been undertaking," he said.

"People should have the confidence when they walk into a centre like this that they are given adequate treatment, or referred to people who have the expertise to deal with these matters.

"I have no problem with a GP at a clinic identifying problems, but they should be referring them to the appropriate physicians when required."

Mr Ward encouraged anyone who had been through a similar experience to contact him, whether they lived in his electorate or not.

"I want to work with the other local members, the Health Care Complaints Commission and the [health] minister's office to bring about the changes necessary."

A spokesperson for NSW Health advised patients to seek a second opinion if they had any concerns.

"Ask your doctor how often they have performed this procedure or one of a similar size and complexity. You may also ask about scarring and if this would be minimised by seeing a specialist," the spokesperson said.

Comment was sought from Dr Jeremy Reader and the Wollongong Skin Cancer Clinic but none was received.


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