My 10 stitches
My 10 stitches Alexia Purcell

OPINION: Brush with skin cancer scary regardless of type

I SHOULD have known growing up on the Sunshine Coast - spending weekends in the surf, on the sand, under the sun - would come back to bite me.

In the form of 10 stitches in my arm.

And a brush with skin cancer I would rather not have had.

But I did and lucky for me it was with a basal cell carcinoma, one of the more common and less life-threatening skin cancers. 

I first noticed a red spot on my right shoulder probably about a year ago. It was so insignificant I can't remember exactly when. And I thought nothing more of it until a few weeks ago it started bleeding.

That's when I realised it had grown - quite alarmingly - at least three times the size.

The Cancer Council Australia website says basal cell carcinomas (BCC) are often a "pearly lump" or a "scaly, dry area that is shiny and pale or bright pink in colour".

They are slow growing, often with no symptoms detected and don't spread to other parts of the body.

While BCCs are not invasive cancers, they still require treatment as the Cancer Council says they can develop into non-melanoma skin cancers.

My treatment was simple. A GP shaved the skin cancer off - leaving a hole about the size of a five cent piece - and sent it away for testing to see how big the tumor was.

The results came back. It was right to the edges. I needed to see a specialist and have more of the flesh around the skin cancer removed.

I saw a dermatologist who did a 2cm long cut and dug deep to remove the tumor. She then burned all the flesh before sewing me back up.

It left me with 10 stitches and a dent in my arm.

But I really don't care.

Even though BCCs are quite common, accounting for about 70% of non-melanoma skin cancers, according to Cancer Council Australia, to say "I have" and the word "cancer" in one sentence was enough for me.

I'm just so grateful it was a BCC and have since made an appointment for a follow-up full skin check to make sure I have no others.

If you've spent lots of time in the sun, even if you slipped, slopped and slapped like I thought I had, make sure you get regular skin checks. And check yourself as well.

The Cancer Council Australia recommends looking for spots that lack symmetry, spots with a spreading or irregular edge, blotchy spots that are black, blue, red, white and/or grey and spots that are getting bigger.

Happy mole hunting.

Alexia Purcell is APN Australian Regional Media's social media editor.

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