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Stacey’s Melanoma Story – An Unexpected Diagnosis

By | Cancer, Skin, Women's Health | No Comments

An Unexpected Diagnosis

When Stacey was just 28, she was diagnosed with Melanoma.

Finding the melanoma wasn’t supposed to happen, but due to a series of events Stacey is lucky it was found in such early stages.

“I booked my husband in for a mole check as one of his footy team mates was diagnosed with terminal cancer from a melanoma” Stacey recalls. “Unfortunately, (well very fortunately) my husband couldn’t make the appointment at short notice so instead of cancelling the appointment I decided to get my moles checked.”

stacey-murphy-healthmint-melanomaStacey was seen by Dr Paul Tescher who did a full skin check – checking every mole on her body. “He was concerned about a small mole, only 3mm in diameter that I thought looked just like a freckle”. A couple of days later the conspicuous mole was removed and sent off for testing.

“It was Sunday afternoon and my husband and I were shopping at Fountain Gate when I received a call from Dr Paul’s Clinic”. Stacey was asked to attend the clinic immediately. “Upon this phone call my husband and I knew the mole must of been cancerous and our legs went to jelly.”

Dr Paul broke the news to Stacey that the mole had tested positive to melanoma. The cancer was spreading across the surface of Stacey’s skin and towards her bloodstream and the entire circumference of the mole tested positive to melanoma. However due to the early diagnosis, “he was extremely positive and reassuring that I would return to full health.”

Once Stacey was given her options for the removal of the melanoma, Dr Paul was able to undertake the procedure.

“The idea of having cancer in my body was terrifying so I wanted to ensure it was gone as quick as possible.”

The procedure to remove the cancer took place the next day and 1cm was removed around the original incision. A hole about the size of a 20cent piece was cut to create a flap in the skin to stretch and cover the hole. Stacey received a total of 21 stitches. This was then sent off for testing – and luckily came back with the all clear and no further traces of melanoma.

stacey-murphy-healthmint-melanoma

A family history of melanoma is apparent in Stacey’s family, with a few of her Mother’s 6 siblings being diagnosed later in life. “They were definitely surprised with my diagnosis,” Stacey claims. “I have two siblings myself and both are blonde with fair skin, while I am a brunette with olive skin. Call me naive, but I thought they would be more at risk than myself!”

“Like most Australians, I love being outdoors and soaking up the UV rays, but we need to realise that without the proper skin protection, this can come at a price.” Stacey still enjoys summer and the outdoors but now uses a 50+ sunscreen any time she heads outside.

“The diagnosis changed my outlook on life. I try not to stress the small stuff, and I take very little for granted. I wanted to share my story to encourage people of all ages to get their skin regularly checked, and to also push the use of sun protection for themselves and their families.”

stacey-murphy-malenoma-scar

“I know have a big beautiful scar on my arm which I wear with pride. It is a reminder not only to myself, but to all that know me to Slip, Slop, Slap!”

 

Thank you to Stacey for giving her permission to publish her story and her voice to help raise awareness about the importance of getting your skin checked.

If you are concerned about any unusual spots, freckles or moles, book an appointment to have your skin checked by clicking here

You can read more about our skin checks and mole removal here

If you would like more information on melanoma and the signs and symptoms to look out for then read our other articles:

Melanoma Symptoms

Skin Cancer Facts

Summer Safe Skin – What you should know about skin cancer

Skin cancer, skin checks and moles – oh my!

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here

Melanoma Symptoms

By | Cancer, Skin | No Comments

What is Melanoma, What are the Symptoms of Melanoma?

 

 

Fast and scary facts on melanoma

  • Melanoma is Australia’s national cancer
  • Melanoma kills more young Australians than any other type of cancer
  • 1 person EVERY 5 hours will die from melanoma in Australia
  • Estimated 1,905 people died from melanoma in 2018
  • Estimated over 14,000 will be diagnosed in 2019

(https://melanoma.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics)

Melanoma has stages…and types

There are five stages of melanoma, and they range in severity from 0 to IV. Each stage is based on characteristics such as the ulceration, the thickness of the tumour and if lymph nodes or organs are affected. Once the melanoma is diagnosed, the stage it is in will guide the treatment.

Check out https://www.melanoma.org.au/understanding-melanoma/stages-of-melanoma/ for their definitions and treatments for each stage.

Symptoms of melanoma that are hidden in plain sight (!) The hidden threat

Lumps beneath the skin

These are called nodular melanomas and can occur anywhere on the skin. They are particularly dangerous because they grow into the skin much faster than they change dimensions on the skin surface. These can be very tricky to notice before they spread.

Under the nails

As well as palms of the hands and the soles of feet.

“Age spots”

Watch out for those spots you already have that you think are changing over time because you are just ‘ageing’. Think again and have them checked.

Changes in your scalp

These are so dangerous because if you have a full head of hair, the spots are not in plain sight.

The groin and more!

Areas that never see the sun are still at risk of developing melanoma

Vision changes

Eye melanoma may not produce any symptoms, but any changes in vision should be seen by a doctor immediately

Check out and learn your ABCDEs

abcde-melanoma-signs

A is for Asymmetrical – moles with irregular shapes and that have two very different halves

B is for Border (irregular) – notched, scalloped or irregular borders

C is for Colour (changes in) – growths that may have many colours or an uneven distribution of colours

D is for Diameter – look for moles that are greater than about 6mm in diameter

E is for Evolving – always look out for changes over time. Ones that grow, change in shape and colour, or begin to itch or bleed

Treatment options for melanoma

Treatment for melanoma will depend on the following:

  • The stage of the disease
  • The location of the cancer
  • The severity of the symptoms
  • Your general health and wishes

Treatment may involved the following:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Any of these treatment methods are invasive and if waited until too late they have no guarantee that they will be successful and carry many risks and side affects.

I want to be proactive in looking after my skin – how do I prevent melanoma?

In Australia it’s near impossible to not be exposed to the sun at some point in the day. It is still important to get some UV exposure in skin-water-summer-tan-healthmintorder to take in and absorb Vitamin D which is crucial to your health. However it is recommended to do this in the earlier hours of the day and in the evening when the sun is not at its strongest.

  • Avoid the sun in the middle of the day (generally 10am-4pm) which is when it is strongest and you are more likely to get sunburnt.
  • Wear sunscreen all year round and include it into your morning routine.
  • Avoid tanning beds – they emit UV rays and increase your risk of skin cancer
  • Get to know the skin you’re in – examine your skin regularly for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, bumps, birthmarks and freckles. Be sure you don’t neglect between your toes, the soles your feet and your genitals!

skin-sunscreen-healthmint-protect

Are you frightened by the information above? Terrified by the facts you didn’t realise about melanoma? Now is the time to get your skin checked. Book an appointment online here or call (03) 5611 3365

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Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here

Skin Cancer Facts

By | Body Systems, Cancer, Lifestyle, Men's Health, Skin, Women's Health | No Comments

It’s beginning to heat up, and Australians are eager to get out into the sun. We all know that skin cancer is a problem, but many people show a concerning disregard of sun safety. Australia has some of the highest melanoma rates in the world – two out of every three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before they are 70. It’s clearly an issue we need to address as a nation. Here are some facts about skin cancer that serve as a reminder to take sun safety seriously.

Melanoma is very common – and it can be deadly. Melanoma is the third most common cancer in men and women. It accounts for only 2% of diagnosed skin cancers, but it is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths. In the last 20 years, melanoma rates have doubled and are still on the rise. That being said, if melanoma is detected early it can often be completely cured with just a simple procedure.

But melanoma isn’t the only concern. Skin cancer occurs from damage to skin cells, and there are three main types. Along with melanoma, you could be at risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. While melanoma is the leading cause of skin cancer death, there are still significant numbers of deaths due to non-melanoma skin cancer.

It’s not worth it for a tan. Tanned skin used to be considered healthy, but actually a tan is a sign that you have been exposed to enough UV radiation to damage your skin. Many people ignore sun safety in favour of tanning for beauty-related reasons, but tanning can also cause wrinkles, sagging, and yellow or brown discolouration on the skin. A fake tan is ok from a skin cancer point of view, but don’t forget that it won’t actually protect you from the sun – you can still get sunburn.

You and your doctor make the best team. You should take time to get familiar with how your skin looks to make it easier to identify any changes. There are many great resources around to help you understand what you’re looking for. The Cancer Councils website is a great place to start. They suggest you keep a close eye out for:

  • any crusty, non-healing sores
  • small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
  • new spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months.

If you notice any changes or haven’t had a skin check recently, you should see your GP to get your skin assessed. You will need to go to a skin specialist, who will examine your skin to identify any potential areas of concern.  Keeping up regular checks, both at home and every year or so with a professional, will help make sure your skin isn’t preparing a nasty surprise.

We all love the sun, but with summer on the way make sure you protect yourself and your loved ones. Team up with your doctor to ensure that if there is a problem, you’ll pick up on it early. Sunburn is a serious issue, so don’t forget to enjoy the sunshine – but stay safe.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here
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