HomeLifestyleWoman who 'never sunbathed' shares warning after getting melanoma
Woman who 'never sunbathed' shares warning after getting melanoma
PR director, 33, who ‘never sunbathed’ is shocked to find out she has stage 3 melanoma after a mole on her shoulder blade suddenly changed
Courtney Mangan, 33, noticed a mole had changed when she was age 30
She was told it was melanoma and had it removed, before getting another
Courtney was told she had level 3 melanoma and is undergoing immunotherapy
The 33-year-old had never sunbathed and always wore hats if she was in the sun
At age 30, Courtney Mangan’s number one priority was sun safety.
With fair, freckled skin and red hair, the Gold Coast PR director ‘never sunbathed’ or went in the sun apart from to swim, had skin checks every three months and wore hats ‘all of the time’.
So when she noticed a small mole on her shoulder blade in 2017 and it began to itch, Courtney didn’t think much of it but decided to have it checked out by a GP.
‘I had several GPs look at it, and they all thought it was fine, but when my dad said he thought it had changed and I should see a skin doctor, I was sent in for testing and told it was melanoma,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Courtney Mangan (pictured), 33, never sunbathed and always wore hats in the sun, getting skin checks every three months on account of her fair skin and hair
Diagnosed with level four melanoma, Courtney said she was told the mole would have to be ‘excised along with some of my lymph nodes’.
‘After this happened, I was even more vigilant with sun protection and skin checks,’ Courtney said.
‘I have red hair and I’m very fair and my dad has had several melanomas. I knew I had to be careful.’
Unlike many melanomas, for Courtney (pictured) the second time, she didn’t have a change in a mole, but rather a lump about 10-15 centimetres away from the site of her first melanoma
The 33-year-old (pictured) is currently undergoing immunotherapy for the next 52 weeks; Courtney also made the decision to harvest eggs for freezing as she was told she was on the ‘edge of being infertile’
Symptoms of melanoma
Often melanoma has no symptoms, but, the first sign is generally a change in an existing mole or the appearance of a new spot. These changes include:
– colour – a mole may change in colour or have different colour shades or become blotchy
– size – a mole may appear to get bigger
– shape – a mole may have in irregular border or may increase in height
– elevation – the mole may develop a raised area
– itching or bleeding
Other symptoms include dark areas under nails or on membranes lining the mouth, vagina or anus.
Source: Cancer Council Australia
Despite her best efforts, in November 2019, Courtney, now 33, noticed a small lump about 12-15 centimetres away from her initial melanoma spot on her right shoulder blade.
‘I was worried about it, but wasn’t sure what it was, because it wasn’t a changed mole, but more of a lump,’ Courtney said.
She went to the doctor and was sent for an ultrasound, which couldn’t confirm what it was.
Courtney was then sent to a melanoma specialist, where she had a PET scan and was told she had melanoma again, along with stage four cancer.
‘I remember being told the percentage rates of survival by my doctor, which was so hard to hear,’ she said.
‘The doctor sent me away and said I needed to process the fact that I had cancer before I decided what to do.’
Now, Courtney (pictured) is issuing a passionate warning to men and women, particularly in Australia, about looking after their skin as even incidental sun exposure can be fatal
The 33-year-old (pictured) said it angers her that people on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook ‘glamourise tanning’ and having a golden glow
Last week, Courtney said her melanoma was re-assessed and moved from a level 4 to 3B.
‘This was because it is so close to the old mole and hasn’t travelled far enough to be a separate melanoma,’ Courtney said.
She has also begun immunotherapy treatment – which she will do every week for the next 52 weeks.
‘I’ve had to make some pretty difficult decisions since the diagnosis,’ she said – including delaying her cancer treatment while she harvested some eggs to freeze.
‘I was told I was on the edge of being infertile and I’m single right now, so I made the decision to have some of my eggs frozen so that I hopefully have the opportunity to have children in the future,’ she said.
‘It was a hard choice because I had to pause the cancer treatment while we did it, and risk the chance of it spreading, but I didn’t want to wake up one day having lost my fertility.’
She said she is urging people to book in for regular skin checks, as the 33-year-old (pictured) prepares to take part in the Melanoma March in Coolangatta on 15 March
Causes of melanoma
Melanoma risk increases with exposure to UV radiation from the sun or other sources such as solariums, particularly with episodes of sunburn (especially during childhood).
Melanoma risk is increased for people who have:
– unprotected sun exposure
– a history of childhood tanning and sunburn
– a pattern of short, intense periods of exposure to UV radiation
– increased numbers of unusual moles
– depressed immune systems
– a family history of melanoma in a first degree relative
– fair skin, a tendency to burn rather than tan, freckles, light eye colour, light or red hair colour
– had a previous melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer.
Source: Cancer Council Australia
Now, Courtney is issuing a passionate warning to men and women, particularly in Australia, about looking after their skin.
‘I was so unlucky – for me it was the incidental sun exposure and the fact that the sun hit my shoulder in the car while I was driving to get coffee that meant I got melanoma. You can never be too careful,’ she said.
The 33-year-old said it angers her that people on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook ‘glamourise tanning’ and having a golden glow.
‘Tanning should be seen to be as damaging as smoking,’ she said.
‘Melanoma is the number one cancer for those between age 15 and 39. A tan means damage on your skin. It is not a good thing.’
‘I have been to work every single day since my diagnosis, and I am putting in the work to be mentally strong,’ Courtney (pictured) said
Courtney (pictured) said the most important things you can do is be as sun safe as possible and know your body – as you ‘have to be your own health advocate’
Courtney will be walking in the Coolangatta Melanoma March on Sunday 15 March to raise awareness and much-needed funds for melanoma research.
The people at highest risk of skin cancer
Everyone is at risk of skin cancer, but the likelihood is significantly increased for people who have:
– A high number of unusual moles (scientifically known as dysplastic naevi)
– Fair skin and a tendency to burn rather than tan, freckles, light eye colour, light or red hair colour
– Previous history of skin cancer
Source: Cancer Council Australia
‘I have been to work every single day since my diagnosis, and I am putting in the work to be mentally strong,’ Courtney said.
‘It’s hard because sometimes I think it’s unfair, but I want to tell people to be careful and if I can encourage anyone to book a skin check, then that will help.’
Courtney said the most important things you can do is be as sun safe as possible and know your body:
‘No doctors had ever told me to check for lumps with melanoma, I always thought it was moles,’ she said.
‘But you have to be your own health advocate as no one else will.’
Melanoma March 2020 is an initiative of Melanoma Institute Australia and is supported by Melanoma Patients Australia.
For more information to register to march, or sponsor someone who is marching, click here. You can follow Courtney Mangan on Instagram here.
Some of the main march dates include 8 March in Western Sydney, 15 March in Coolangatta and Melbourne, 22 March in Canberra, Adelaide, Manly and Launceston and 29 March in Brisbane and Perth.