Two doctors’ journey to skin cancer and aesthetic medicine
Ochre Health’s latest Canberra recruit, Dr Bana Alhoseini, is keen to use and develop her skin cancer and aesthetic skills – and she’s come to the right place.
She joins doctors including Dr Sue Guirguis, who practices at Ochre Medical Centre Bruce. “I was an anaesthetist originally, working in operating theatres,” says Dr Guirguis. “When I became a GP, it was natural to move into minor surgery. My interest area was skin surgery and I have loved it ever since. I was one of the first people to take the Diploma in Skin Cancer Medicine and Surgery and one of the first members of The Skin Cancer College Australasia.”
Four skin cancer diplomas later, difficult cases are referred to Dr Guirguis. “I love the challenge. For example, a patient had a huge 23mm melanoma on his back that needed attention. I told him I would remove the cancer and simply close the wound edge to edge if possible. But that would be difficult, as we have to take an additional 10mm around the cancer to be safe, and of course closing edge to edge around a circle, you end up with a long wound, so it’s a challenge. Plan B was to do a ‘flap’ – borrowing skin from another area nearby and making cuts in order to move it around. I’m pleased to say that the operation was successful: the wound was 25cm done in a cosmetic way, and he didn’t even require any pain relief.”
Dr Alhoseini’s interest in skin medicine is more recent. While working in different parts of Australia, her interest areas have been driven by her patients. “I like to listen to the community, hear what they need and learn it,” she says. While living in rural Victoria she saw there was a shortage of obstetricians and gynaecologists, so she did a course to learn how to insert IUDs to help her patients on the spot and save them needing to travel to a less familiar doctor in Melbourne.
“I also developed an interest in mental health. I had a patient who was pushed by his family and colleagues to get help. He had really bad general anxiety and obsessions. Like many men, it was a big challenge for him to see a doctor and admit that he wasn’t feeling OK, but he needed medications and a psychologist. Later he told me, you actually saved my life – I am back with my family and feel great about myself. I enjoy life now. He now advises other people: if you feel you aren’t right, get advice. Don’t feel like a mental health problem is taboo. Everyone can get sick – you can get help and you will be fine. That was very rewarding.”
After seven years in Victoria, Dr Alhoseini moved to Perth. “As I was aging myself, I became interested in ways of looking younger through cosmetic medicine. I tried muscle relaxants (also known as anti-wrinkle agents) and found them really good for my self-esteem.”
“Now I help patients in the same way. People are often more confident when they look younger. They even ‘think younger’, as you do when you’re wearing younger clothes. With the help of anti- wrinkle injections, micro needling, peeling, and PRP (platelet-rich plasma injections), people basically look fresher and less tired – they feel better about themselves.”
Dr Sue Guirguis is also focused on aesthetics. “My aim is to remove the skin cancer and get beautiful results for patients at the same time. It’s not necessary to be deformed by skin cancer. That was my introduction to cosmetics – through my skin cancer work. When I started, there was no hands-on training in Australia, so I went to Canada to learn how to use anti-wrinkle muscle relaxants and dermal fillers.” Dr Guirguis became one of the first members of what is now the Australasian College of Aesthetic Medicine, where she gained her Diploma in Cosmetic Medicine.
“As you age, you lose fat and your skin gets loose. We replace that lost tissue with dermal fillers, which are a bit like a firm jelly and so rewarding! Patients leave the practice surprised and happy because they can see immediate results when they look in the mirror.” Dermal fillers are also safe, having been tested and used for decades – so long as quality fillers are used by qualified medical professionals. Black market or inferior products should be avoided. “We always use the best of the best,” says Dr Guirguis.
Dr Guirguis also dismisses muscle relaxant scare stories: “I have done thousands and thousands of injections and I haven’t seen any negative after-effects. This is because we use very small amounts. Muscle relaxants are also used therapeutically, for example to treat muscle rigidity in kids with Cerebral Palsy. In those cases, they might use 600-900 units, while my patients generally get 20-50 units, certainly never more than 120 units.”
“Another therapeutic use of muscle relaxant injections is to treat back and neck pain. I see patients when they’ve tried everything from physio and TENS machines to the full range of pain killers and nothing has helped. I inject them to relax the muscles around the spine and provide very effective pain relief.”
Dr Sue Guirguis is based at Ochre Medical Centre Bruce (02) 6180 8500
Dr Bana Alhoseini practices there as well as at Ochre Medical Centre Kippax (02) 6259 7216
Ochre Medical Centre Bruce
- T: (02) 6180 8500
- A: Building 28, Allwoona St & Ginninderra Drive, Bruce
Ochre Medical Centre Kippax
- T: (02) 6259 7216
- A: 76 Hardwick Crescent, Holt
This feature was created in partnership with Ochre Health. For more information on sponsored partnerships, click here.