TDHS Marg O'Toole

Melanoma scare leaves Marg with a major scar

Photo Caption: Marg O’Toole has just returned to the water after surgery to remove a melanoma. *Photo courtesy of Raelene Wicks. Inset, the before and after photos of the melanoma and the resulting skin flap scar.

This week is National Skin Cancer Action Week

Marg O’Toole loves the ocean. She’s spent her whole life in the water – be it surfing, diving, swimming or boating.

Thankfully, she has just returned to the water after a skin cancer scare saw a spot smaller than a 10 cent piece turned into a scar as big as a grapefruit.

Not surprisingly, Marg has become a huge advocate for skin protection and is urging anyone with a suspect spot to get it checked out ASAP.

“Before we all became more sun smart, I spent a lot of time in the sun. When I was young and silly I went on a surfing trip to the West Indies and surfed in a bikini for days,” she said.

“We know a lot more about what the sun can do to our skin now and even before this I covered up and only went to the beach early or late when the UV isn’t as bad.

“I’d been to a dermatologist about three years ago and had no issues, but then six months ago I noticed a new spot on my leg…it had appeared suddenly.”

Marg’s background as a nurse sparked her into action. The spot changed shape and colour quickly and she knew she needed to get it checked out urgently.

“They did a biopsy and it came back as a Stage 1 Melanoma in Situ. That essentially means it is cancer, but hasn’t spread…I wouldn’t say I was frightened, but I was surprised it had melanoma cells,” she said.

“It was too big for a GP to deal with, so I had to go to a plastic surgeon. He removed it and did a skin flap, which turned into something quite big…I got quite a shock.”

Marg explained that the surgeon took the lesion off with a safe margin and produced a much larger skin flap to cover up where it was.

“The surgery was on October 27 and I got the stiches out on November 11 so I was out of action for a couple of weeks. That was a bit frustrating because I’m a keen recreational diver and the conditions were great,” she quipped.

“With these ‘in situ’ melanomas, if just one cell gets deeper you can be in serious strife, so even though I’m pretty relaxed about it, there was certainly potential for it to be much worse and that could have happened very quickly had I not acted.

“Obviously, my message is simple. Look after your skin, monitor your skin, get spots checked out and if any change shape or colour please act as fast as you can.”

National Skin Cancer Action Week – November 21-27

Each year, Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists come together for National Skin Cancer Action Week. The week acts as an important reminder for all Australians to use sun protection and of the importance of early skin cancer detection.

Around 2,000 people in Australia die from skin cancer each year, and Cancer Council estimates that Australia spends more than $1 billion per year treating skin cancer, with costs increasing substantially over the past few years.

However, most skin cancers can be prevented by the use of good sun protection. That’s why during National Skin Cancer Action Week, all Australians are urged to recall and use the five sun protection measures when UV is 3 and above:

  • slip on sun protective clothing
  • slop on SPF30 or higher broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • slap on a shady hat
  • seek shade
  • slide on sunglasses

A combination of the five measures, along with getting to know your skin and regularly checking for any changes, are key.

For more information please visit

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer: each year, more than 13,000 Australians are diagnosed with a melanoma and almost 980,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are treated. Skin cancer is mostly preventable, and there are effective treatment options available.

There are certain characteristics to look for in spots and moles. Remember the ‘ABCDE’ of skin cancer when checking your skin:

  • Asymmetry — does each side of the spot or mole look different to the other?
  • Border — is it irregular, jagged or spreading?
  • Colours — are there several, or is the colour uneven or blotchy?
  • Diameter — look for spots that are getting bigger
  • Evolution — is the spot or mole changing or growing over time?

Please see your doctor if you notice any new spots or an existing spot that changes size, shape or colour over several weeks or months. You can contact our Timboon Clinic on 5558 6088 to make an appointment.

  • Tracey Heeps
    Posted at 23:15h, 22 November Reply

    That is a serious bit of sewing there Marg! Glad to hear you were on top of this. The ocean will wait for you…..

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