MUST READ: Interview with a Skin Cancer Survivor

With Adelaide in the middle of a scorching heatwave, it’s important now more than ever to stay safe while in the sun! New research reveals that millions of South Australians are underestimating the importance of getting regular skin cancer checks with 40% admitting that they have never had a skin check! Despite 57% of South Australians  knowing that 2 in 3 Australians will get some kind of skin cancer during their lifetime, less than a third (32%) have had a check in the last 12 months.

To raise awareness and get Australia talking about the importance of skin checks in detecting skin cancer early, TAL SpotChecker will head to West Beach in Adelaide next weekend (19-20 January)! We interviewed Adelaide woman, Jade Custance – a skin cancer survivor, on her story and knowledge behind the disease.

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Can you tell us a bit about your story?

I first started getting skin checks with my GP in 2009 and they would dry-ice any spots of concern on my arm and forehead. I noticed that a spot on my forehead kept coming back after the dry-ice treatment, and my skin was becoming flaky which at the time I presumed to be dermatitis. In 2012, after two years of dry icing, I finally insisted on a referral to a dermatologist.  At my first appointment, my dermatologist did a full body check and found a new spot on my shoulder. A spot on my forehead and shoulder were immediately removed and sent for analysis, which both turned out to be nodular Basal Cell Carcinoma’s (BCCs), and I soon learnt that BCC’s were growing deeper internally as the dry icing was removing the surface level spot. At my first annual appointment, they found a couple more BCC’s so they brought my checks back to six monthly and every time I’ve had an appointment they have found more BCC’s. I am now getting my skin checked every three months and have now had 11 removed from my face and 2 from my shoulder.

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Before discovery, what knowledge did you have of skin cancer?

I didn’t know a whole lot. I have fair skin but never thought much of it. I remember the Slip Slop Slap adverts but didn’t know anyone with skin cancer or melanoma.

When did you realise something wasn’t quite right with your skin?

I was 28 and kept getting this dry flaky spot on my forehead near my hair line. As well as the GP burning it with dry ice I also tried a few different skin products which looked like they were working as the surface of my skin seemed to have improved. Little did I know that it was growing deeper instead. When my husband suggested I get a skin check with a dermatologist I thought that could be a good idea as I’d never had one and have fair skin but didn’t think much else of it.  My dermatologist picked up the BCC on my forehead straight away and did a biopsy that day in her room which returned positive. I was then booked in for surgery to have it cut out and had 8 stitches and the first of my many scars to come.

Prior to discovering the cancer, what was your sun care routine?

I’d only think of sun screen if I was planning to be out in the sun for an extended period of time. It wasn’t part of my daily routine and I rarely wore a hat.

What is your routine now?

My routine is very different now. I now apply 50+  face and body moisturiser every morning, no matter the weather. I also always now wear a hat whenever I am outside. I’m also careful to regularly self-check my skin and keep an eye on any pimples or dry patches of skin.

What advice would you give to women and men who love to sunbath?

It’s not worth it. The UV is so much stronger now and you may not know the damage until it’s too late to change your routine. There are good quality sunless tanning solutions that are much safer if having tanned skin is that important.

How has your life changed since having found and removed your skin cancer? What is your attitude towards sun care now?

Staying safe in the sun and regularly getting skin checks is at the forefront of my mind every day. My family and my boys are the reason I am so vigilant with daily sun protection and check-ups. They are fair skinned like me so it’s important to set a good example for them and to be healthy to be around to support and love them. I also regularly speak to my friends and family about it to make sure they are being vigilant and encourage them to get regular checks too. I will continue to stress the importance of sun care with all my friends and family.

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