Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Cancer survivor says ‘don’t ignore signs of skin cancer’

A Lancashire cancer survivor has urged anyone with skin cancer symptoms to contact their GP – after a couple of itchy spots turned out to be melanoma.

71-year-old Brian was quickly referred to hospital for further investigations and had an operation within weeks. He has decided to tell his story for Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

In the 10 months to February 2021, compared to the previous year urgent skin cancer referrals in Lancashire and South Cumbria dropped by 14 per cent, meaning more people could be diagnosed later. Finding and treating skin cancer at an early stage saves lives.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer services have remained a priority for the NHS. Investigations, diagnosis and treatment are continuing, and local teams are working hard to ensure the NHS is there to see patients safely.

Brian said: “I noticed three new itchy crusty spots on my back that didn’t go away after a month or so. More than a year ago I had basal cell carcinomas (the most common form of skin cancer), so I knew what signs to look out for and thought this could potentially be a sign of cancer.

“I shared a photo of the spots with my GP and they quickly referred me to the hospital for an urgent consultation. I had a biopsy and the results came back to say I had melanoma (a form of skin cancer that can grow quickly and needs to be treated early). Within weeks I had an operation to remove the cancer.

“Since receiving the all-clear, I am now in good health and pleased to say I have put my gardening gloves back on. I now go for an examination every three months with the specialist nurses at Royal Preston Hospital who check how I’m doing mentally and physically. They have been so amazing and I am so grateful for all they do.

“I’m so glad I spoke to my GP when I did, and we caught my cancer before it had spread. I would encourage anyone with possible signs and symptoms of cancer to contact their GP right away. Early diagnosis and treatment could save your life.”

Dr Adam Janjua, local GP and GP clinical lead for cancer at NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. This month marks Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a great opportunity to talk about the signs and symptoms of this form of cancer. Common symptoms include a sore, lump, spot or an area of skin that doesn’t heal within four weeks, or that looks unusual, hurts, itches, bleeds, crusts or scabs.

“The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole. Look out for a mole that changes shape, size, colour or becomes itchy or bleeds.

“If you notice anything unusual for you, or you have concerns about possible signs and symptoms of cancer, you should speak to your GP. It’s probably nothing serious, but it’s important to get checked out because early diagnosis makes cancer more treatable.

“Video consultations and emailing photos from your smartphone make it even easier for you to share your concerns with your GP from the comfort of your home. If you do need a face-to-face appointment your GP is there to see you safely.”

Dr Neil Smith, primary care director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, has produced a video which highlights the signs and symptoms of malignant melanoma cancer video:

Advice about skin cancer signs and symptoms