Skin Cancer Spotted by a Beautician
- An Australian woman, 62, was diagnosed with two different types of skin cancer after her beautician noticed a suspicious looking spot on her chest. She urged her to get a second opinion on the spot since other doctors has dismissed the woman’s concerns, and when she did she received her diagnoses: stage two melanoma on her chest and basal cell carcinoma on her nose.
- The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that over 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year, making it the most common cancer in the United States.
- Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the same cells that give your skin, hair and eyes their color. Ninety percent of melanomas are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, and develops when basal cells, one of three main types of cells in the top layer of the skin, grow abnormally or uncontrollably.
The 62-year-old mother from Australia went to her doctors about the discolored spot above her right breast in June 2021, but she was told there was nothing to worry about. But when she went to her beautician, Leigh Murphy, for a facial months later, Murphy had a different opinion.Read More
Turns out, Murphy was right. After an appointment with a skin specialist a week later, Murray received not one, but two skin cancer diagnoses. Stage two melanoma on her chest and basal cell carcinoma on her nose. Both Murray and Murphy hadn’t suspected anything wrong with her nose.
“It’s amazing for a beautician to find it when a doctor missed it first. She’s worth her weight in gold,” Murray said. “I’ve been seeing Leigh for a few years. She went over me like a fine-tooth comb… When I tell her she’s saved my life, she gets goosebumps, she’s overwhelmed and she’s so pleased that her training has taught her what to do.”
Though she’s fortunate her beautician spotted the cancerous spot other doctors ignored, Murray was still, understandably, devastated by the diagnoses.
“I didn’t know the extent of how horrific it was. It was really bad. If it gets in your bloodstream, it’s bad,” she said. “(But) I was just outside of the margin so they didn’t have to take my lymph nodes out and I have to be checked out every three months.”
Murray underwent two operations to remove the cancerous cells that left her in “ridiculous” pain. She’s still suffering from loss of feeling in her chest and scarring, but she’s happy to be recovering.
“I looked disgusting but I’m healing now,” she said. “‘I’m a very lucky lady. Without [Murphy’s] expertise I wouldn’t be here and my doctor said I won the lotto with her.”
Understanding Skin Cancer
The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that over 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year, making it the most common cancer in the United States. And even though most of us aren’t soaking up the sun in a bathing suit at this time of year, it’s important to remember that the risk of developing skin cancer is very much still there in the winter months.
“My patients ask me all the time, ‘Do I really need sunscreen every day, all year round?’ The answer is yes,” Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board certified dermatologic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue, previously told SurvivorNet. “People think they only need sun protection when they’re in the bright, warm sunshine. But the reality is, we can get sun damage at any time throughout the year, even in the cold, wintry months. Think about when you go skiing. That’s a very high risk. Even though it’s cold, our skin should be protected.”
Dr. Engelman, shared the top five things you can do to avoid skin cancer:
- Avoid sun during peak hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect the tops of our heads, the tops of our ears and the delicate area around the eye.
- Wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen and make sure to reapply every two hours or after excessive sweating or swimming.
- Have yearly skin checks (with a professional) because it’s difficult to evaluate areas all over the body.
- Avoid tanning beds. There are no “good” tanning beds, and they can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer.
No matter how vigilant you are about decreasing your risk for skin cancer, its important to still prioritize routine checkups with your dermatologist and always be on the lookout for any skin changes in between visits.
What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the same cells that give your skin, hair and eyes their color. The American Cancer Society estimates that 106,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States in 2021.
And while the ACS says the risk of melanoma increases as people age with the average age of diagnosis being 65, the disease is not uncommon among those younger than 30. In fact, it’s one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young women).
The disease can develop from an existing mole or appear as a dark or pink growth on the skin even in places on the body that never see the sun. It’s also known to be the deadliest form of skin cancer.
“Melanomas are the deadliest type of skin cancer because they have a tendency to spread to other parts of the body,” explains Dr. Anna Pavlick, a medical oncologist with Weill Cornell Medicine who specializes in treating skin cancer.
What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and develops when basal cells, one of three main types of cells in the top layer of the skin, grow abnormally or uncontrollably.
One distinguishing factor of this type of skin cancer is that it tends to grow more slowly resulting in minimal damage and making it generally curable when caught and treated early.
The tricky thing, however, is that BCC can often be overlooked as a pimple or skin tag. They may appear as raised areas on the skin with pale, pink or red-ish colors, and they may also have abnormal blood vessels. No matter what, if you have a spot on your skin that seems abnormal or questionable, you should consult your doctor because BCC can look very different from person to person.
Generally speaking, BCC occurs when DNA damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or indoor tanning triggers changes in basal cells. Because it most often develops on areas of the skin that are exposed to sun, it’s crucial to protect yourself from the sun in any way that you can.