A 29-year-old woman has said her deadly skin cancer was mistaken for a fungal infection.
Sarah Lee, a BBC journalist, said getting melanoma was a “terrifying surprise.”
Melanoma is more serious than other skin cancers because it’s more likely to invade other body parts.
A woman whose skin cancer was mistaken for a fungal infection said it was a “terrifying surprise” to be diagnosed with melanoma — a deadly skin cancer — and is encouraging others to take care in the sun and get any worrying moles reviewed by a doctor.
“PLEASE don’t underestimate the damage the sun can do. Wear SPF, a hat, stay in the shade and get your moles checked, ” Sarah Lee, a journalist at the BBC, wrote on Twitter Friday.
Melanoma is a rare skin cancer that’s more dangerous than others because it’s the most likely to invade other parts of the body, according to the British Association of Dermatologists. In the US, there have been about 99,780 new cases of melanoma this year, and about 7% of those patients have died, National Institutes of Health data suggests.
One of the “most important” causes of melanoma is too much exposure to ultraviolet waves, either from sunlight or sunbeds, according to BAD. Pale skin that burns easily, blond or red hair, and a family member who has had melanoma increase the chance of developing it.
“When the nurse told me the news over the phone, I was so shocked I almost collapsed. I wasn’t a sunbed user, I used factor 30 sun cream and I grew up in Wales, where it almost always rains,” Lee, 29, wrote of the day she found out a mole was cancer — after six months, three virtual family-doctor consultations, and two dermatology reviews.
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Pea-sized black mole on her scalp
Lee first noticed a pea-sized black mole on her scalp in July 2021 after she took a picture to decide if she needed new highlights for her fine, blond hair, she wrote in a BBC news article.
She told Insider that the first family doctor immediately referred her to a dermatologist, who told her in August 2021 that the spot on her scalp was unlikely to be malignant.
By November, the mole had “grown and multiplied,” so she sent pictures to another family doctor, who said it was a fungus that would get better without treatment. Lee wasn’t convinced and called another family doctor, who referred her to another dermatologist, who arranged for the moles to be surgically removed and biopsied.
Invasive surgery to remove 24 lymph nodes
In January, the biopsy results confirmed Lee had “stage three malignant nodular melanoma,” meaning the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
Lee subsequently underwent eight-hour surgery to remove 24 lymph nodes, including from her neck.
“When I heard the word ‘dissection,’ I instantly thought about the sad-looking fish I had to cut up in Year 11 biology. On 11 March, it was my turn to be the fish,” Lee wrote.
Lee no longer has signs of cancer in her body, but she continues to take two cancer-growth-blocking drugs, dabrafenib and trametinib, to prevent it from coming back. The drugs can cause side effects like vomiting.
Look for moles that change size, shape, or color
The first sign of melanoma can be a mole changing color or a new brown or black spot.
“Essentially, you are looking for changes in the size, shape or color of any moles, a new mole, or a mole that looks different to the others,” BAD says on its website.
“It’s rarely a case of ‘just cutting out a mole’. As I keep saying, it’s not just skin cancer and it can happen to anyone, anywhere — even on your scalp,” she wrote.
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