19 Nov Get checked! A passionate plea from a skin cancer survivor
The death of her favorite university lecturer from a melanoma triggered Bronwyn Rantall’s heightened awareness of skin cancer and it might just have saved her life.
Mrs Rantall began ‘mole mapping’ soon after the funeral of Ballarat University Prof Graham Ford in 2007 and earlier this year a small lump in the middle of her forehead turned out to a worrisome basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
“I remember I was pregnant at his funeral and I just thought ‘you know what, if it can happen to him, it can happen to me’ so I started mole mapping,” she said.
“Mole mapping is much more than getting a skin check. They take detailed photos of you and create a digital record to track any changes over time.
“I get mole mapped every two years. It costs me $400 but that’s nothing, especially if it helps you identify potential problems so you can tackle them early.”
Mrs Rantall spoke out this week to mark National Skin Cancer Action Week (November 15-21) and urged everyone to understand how any change in a spot on their skin could be a sign of something potentially life-threatening.
“Mine looked like nothing really. It was such a small bump and I’ve had a few bits and pieces taken off over the years, which all turned out to be harmless but were enough of a concern to get them taken care of,” she said.
“This one wasn’t coloured, it wasn’t painful but I’d been paying attention, I wasn’t happy to leave it be and I wanted to get it checked. It would have been easy to do nothing about it, but I did something about it and I’m very glad I did.
“We don’t know what it might have become. At the very least if I’d put it off it would have become bigger and I’d have an even bigger scar. At the very worst, who knows?”
Mrs Rantall was referred to plastic surgeon John Masters in Warrnambool who initially did what is called a scaping to test the tissue for cancerous cells.
“I remember he said, ‘look, you’re 50, you have white skin, these marks happen and I’m pretty confident it will be fine’,” she said.
“A couple of days later he rang and said we had an issue and it needed to be cut out. So I went in and he cut a big slice out of the middle of my forehead and gave me 10 stitches.
“They cut them out in a canoe shape and then pull the skin back together…it was like a bonus facelift I joked at the time.
“I’m a bit of a ‘what happens, happens’ kind of person so I didn’t get overly worried, but I’m obviously really pleased that I’m active with my skin care and didn’t let it go. I cover the scar with a fringe, so my modelling career isn’t ruined,” she quipped.
Mrs Rantall said the scar, particularly immediately afterwards, prompted lots of questions from members of the community which provided her with a welcome opportunity to talk about mole mapping and the importance of skin checks and being vigilant.
“If you spent your childhood in the sun without much sunscreen like a lot of my generation did, then please get your skin checked, that’s my main message,” she said.
“I think parents are often very good with their children, but often not so good with themselves. With 50+ sunscreen now, there’s really no reason to get burnt and put your skin and your health in jeopardy.”
“For an initial skin check you can contact the Timboon Clinic on 5558 6088 to make an appointment, who can then refer you to a specialist if further investigation is required.”