Woman, 29, Says Melanoma Was Mistaken for Fungal Infection: Symptoms

  • A 29-year-old woman has said her potentially deadly skin cancer was mistaken for a fungal infection.
  • Sarah Lee, a BBC journalist, said that getting melanoma was a “terrifying surprise.”
  • Melanoma is more serious than other skin cancers because it is more likely to invade other body parts.

A woman whose skin cancer was mistaken for a fungal infection, said it was a “terrifying surprise,” to be diagnosed with melanoma — a potentially deadly skin cancer — and is encouraging others to take care in the sun, and get any worrying moles reviewed by a doctor.

“PLEASE don’t underestimate the damage the sun can do. Wear SPF, a hat, stay in the shade and get your moles checked,” Sarah Lee, a journalist at the BBC, wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Melanoma is a rare skin cancer that is more dangerous than others because it is most likely to invade other parts of the body, according to the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD). In the US, there have been around 99,780 new cases of melanoma in 2022, and around 7% of those have died, National Institutes of Health data suggests.

One of the “most important” causes of melanoma is too much UV, either from sunlight or sunbeds, according to BAD. Pale skin that burns easily, blond or red hair, and a family member who has had melanoma all increase the chance of developing one.

“When the nurse told me the news over the phone, I was so shocked I almost collapsed. I wasn’t a sunbed user, I used factor 30 sun cream and I grew up in Wales, where it almost always rains,” Lee, 29, wrote of the day she found out a Mole was cancer — after six months, three virtual family doctor consultations, and two Dermatology reviews.

Pea-sized black Mole on her scalp

Lee first noticed a pea-sized, black mole on her scalp in July 2021, after she took a picture to decide if she needed new highlights for her fine, blond hair, she wrote in a BBC news article.

Lee told Insider that the first family doctor immediately referred her to a dermatologist who told her, in August 2021, that the spot on her scalp wasn’t likely to be malignant.

By November 2021, the Mole had “grown and multiplied,” so she sent pictures to another family doctor, who said it was a fungus that would get better without treatment. Lee wasn’t convinced, and called another family doctor who referred her to another dermatologist, who arranged for the moles to be surgically removed and biopsied.

Invasive surgery to remove 24 lymph nodes

In January, the biopsy results confirmed Lee had “stage three malignant nodular melanoma,” meaning the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

Lee subsequently underwent an 8-hour surgery to remove 24 lymph nodes, including from her neck.

“When I heard the word “dissection,” I instantly thought about the sad-looking fish I had to cut up in Year 11 biology. On March 11, it was my turn to be the fish,” Lee wrote.

Lee no longer has signs of cancer in her body, but she continues to take two cancer-growth blocking drugs, dabrafenib and trametinib, to prevent it coming back that can cause her side-effects, like vomiting.

Look for moles that change size, shape or color

The first sign of melanoma can be a Mole changing color, or a new brown or black spot.

“Essentially, you are looking for changes in the size, shape or color of any moles, a new mole, or a mole that looks different to the others,” BAD says on its website.

Lee tweeted that the care since diagnosis was “amazing,” but wrote the experience taught her to never underestimate her damage.

“It’s rarely a case of “just cutting out a mole”. As I keep saying, it’s not just skin cancer and it can happen to anyone, anywhere — even on your scalp,” she wrote.


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