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Friday 19 October 2018

'Check your skin - age is no barrier to melanoma', says survivor Emma (24)

Emma Alford noticed the mole on her shoulder last year
Emma Alford noticed the mole on her shoulder last year

A 24-year-old woman who was diagnosed with melanoma earlier this year has urged people to get their skin checked.

Dubliner Emma Alford noticed a mole on her right shoulder last year - five months after she had been given the all-clear at a previous skin check - which turned out to be cancerous.

"I got my skin checked last year in May and then I just saw a mole come up," she said.

Ignorance

"I saw it for three months and I left it, and eventually I thought it was better to get it checked than to be living in ignorance.

"I went to a skin doctor in November and he thought the mole on my right shoulder looked weird and referred me to a surgeon in the Blackrock Clinic.

"I knew from my first appointment that they thought it was what it was.

"It's not what you want to hear, but I was told to Google only positive things about it, and I saw someone who was stage four and she was saying to get it checked early, and I tried to remember that I was lucky to get it caught early."

In 2014, 1,041 people were diagnosed with melanoma in Ireland, and cases have almost trebled in the past 20 years.

Ireland has the highest rate of deaths from aggressive skin cancer in Europe.

The Irish Skin Foundation said all GPs can refer "query skin cancerous cells" to dermatology clinics for fast-track appointments.

"It's important to be familiar with your own skin so that you will notice any changes," the charity added.

"Ideally you should inspect your skin once a month. Check the whole of your body from head to toe. Undress completely."

After her melanoma was removed, Emma had to go back for more surgery.

"After the first surgery, the melanoma itself was gone but they need to have a larger margin of the good skin around it gone as well, to be sure that they've got all of it, so in February the surgeon did a wide-local excision and a lymph node biopsy," she said.

"When I went to get my stitches out, they told me that I had the all-clear."

Careful

Emma has always been careful to protect herself in the sun, and said age is no barrier for melanoma.

"I always wore sun cream and I never sat in the sun, I never really liked the sun. I watch my skin, I take good care of it," she said.

"Everyone thinks that it's to do with constant sun damage over time, but it takes only one or two times to damage the skin.

"I'm 24 and it's seen as quite an old person's dis- ease. You think just because you're not in the at-risk age group that it won't happen to you."

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