Health Minister Robin Swann has launched a new mole mapping service at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald.
The mole mapping service is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and is a partnership between the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and Cancer Focus NI.
Launching the new service, Minister Swann said: "I am pleased to launch this vital new service in the Ulster Hospital today. This represents a significant step forward in the early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma skin cancer.
"The new mole mapping service was made possible as a result of almost Pound 160,000 funding from my Department's Cancer Charities Support Fund, so it has been a privilege to see the service operational today.
"I would also like to thank all of those involved in developing and bringing forward such innovative projects and given the prevalence of skin cancer in Northern Ireland, this will undoubtedly help to improve patient outcomes."
The nurse led 2 year pilot project will offer an advanced mole mapping technique for specific patients identified by the clinical team as being at higher risk of developing melanoma skin cancer.
Mole mapping or Automated Total Body Mapping, uses technology to detect malignant melanoma earlier when treatment is most effective. The Mole Mapping service team will also offer advice on skin cancer prevention and skin examination and this investment will improve skin cancer screening services for specific patients.
Skin cancer in Northern Ireland is increasing with approximately four hundred people diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer each year.
Richard Spratt, Chief Executive of Cancer Focus NI said: "We are delighted to partner with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust on this innovative initiative which is the first of its kind in Health and Social Care here. We know the importance of early detection and cancer prevention having been passionately committed to raising skin cancer awareness for many years. We believe this technology has the capacity to detect skin cancer at the earliest possible opportunity and potentially reduce the number of biopsies needed, ultimately resulting in better outcomes for patients in Northern Ireland."
Roisin Coulter, Chief Executive of the South Eastern HSC Trust welcomed the new service saying: "With the number of cases of skin cancer increasing every year it is vital that innovations like this are available for patients. We know the importance of early detection so I am delighted the South Eastern Trust was able to work closely with Cancer Focus to deliver the first mole mapping service in Northern Ireland. "
Referral to the Mole Mapping Service is by Consultant Dermatologist only within the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust.