Skin cancer: Dr Chris outlines the signs of a melanoma
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Routinely visiting the tanning salon, Laura O’Donnell was thrilled to get that golden glow, especially as she lived in Glasgow. Yet, when a darker spot emerged, it raised an eyebrow. “I had been in the bathroom brushing my teeth when I spotted a dark mole or freckle on my tummy,” said Laura. “I hadn’t seen it before and it just didn’t look right to me.” At the time, it was the beginning of lockdown in 2020, so Laura put off seeking medical attention.
Downloading the SkinVision app on her mobile, it warned Laura that the lesion was “high risk” for skin cancer.
“I think everyone, including myself, was in the mindset of not putting too much pressure on the NHS,” Laura explained, as she still didn’t book a doctor’s appointment.
“However, by the end of July, it had changed in shape and I had no option but to get it checked.”
Within days, Laura was referred to a dermatologist who told her that the new mole needed to be removed.
“Being told I had melanoma days later was surreal,” Laura recalled. “I tried to be calm.”
Thankfully, Laura was diagnosed early, which meant she underwent successful treatment.
“I know that, had it not been for the app, my melanoma would not have been detected as early,” she said.
“And I would’ve put off going to see a doctor for much longer – I’m very lucky to have been diagnosed so early.”
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Since her ordeal, Laura feels like she is finally “starting to process it all”.
Admittedly, Laura is also much more conscious of her skin being in the sun nowadays.
“My goal on holiday was always to come back tanned and I’d be disappointed if I didn’t,” she stated.
“Now, I will still enjoy the sun with my family but will cover up with a hat, sunglasses and SPF50, regularly seeking shade.”
According to the charity Melanoma UK, there are an estimated 8,089 cases that may have been missed during the pandemic.
ABCDE warning signs of skin cancer
Melanoma UK shared the warning signs of melanoma skin cancer.
- A – is the spot asymmetrical? Is one half unlike the other?
- B – does it have uneven borders? Are some of the edges irregular and poorly defined?
- C – Does it contain different colours? Is there an uneven distribution?
- D – Is it larger than 6mm in diameter? Is it wider than the width of a pencil eraser?
- E – Has there been an evolution in size, shape or colour?
How to conduct a skin examination:
- Examine the scalp, using a comb to part the hair (if applicable)
- Check the face, including the nose, lips, mouths and ears
- Check the neck, chest and upper body; women should check between and underneath the breasts
- Use a hand mirror to check your back, from top to bottom
- Check the arms, including the armpits
- Check the front and back of the hands, including in between the fingers
- Examine the lower body, including the genitals, buttocks, and legs, feet, and toes.
Melanoma UK has a Skin Self-examination Toolkit you can use to help when it comes to looking for signs of skin cancer.
If you are concerned about any new or evolving mark on your body, then do book a doctor’s appointment.
Private dermatology clinics also offer whole-body mole checks, such as The MOLE Clinic.
Treatment for skin cancer involves surgical excision and a follow-up period of around five years.
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