Australian Olympic swimmer, Cate Campbell, 26, had never given much thought to the mole she had on her upper arm as it had never changed size or shape.
But when she went to have her checked in November, 2018, she was diagnosed with stage one melanoma.
‘I met up with an old friend who had a big scar on his forearm and he had a melanoma scare, that’s what prompted me to get a skin check and it was life saving,’ the two-time gold medallist told FEMAIL.
Australian Olympic swimmer, Cate Campbell, 26, had her skin checked in November 2018 only to find out she had stage one melanoma growing in a mole she had had her whole life (mole pictured on her left arm in March, 2018)
‘I met up with an old friend who had a big scar on his forearm and he had a melanoma scare, that’s what prompted me to get a skin check and it was life saving,’ she said (pictured after having her mole removed)
How common is melanoma?
Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians between 15 and 39 yet to this day, skin checks are not as common as they should be.
‘It was a big shock for me, I’d always had moles on my skin and we’re always told to look out for changes or new spots but it developed in a mole I’d had on me my whole life.
‘Like many Aussies I had constantly put off having my skin checked. I went in there expecting everything to be fine but the dermatologist didn’t like the look of the mole so she removed it.’
Once the results came in it required more surgery to remove the cells.
It was her own personal melanoma diagnosis that inspired her to become an advocate for the importance of sun safety and skin checks.
‘I met up with an old friend who had a big scar on his forearm and he had a melanoma scare, that’s what prompted me to get a skin check and it was potentially life saving,’ she told FEMAIL
Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians (15 to 39 year olds) and skin checks are often at the bottom of everyone’s priority list
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which usually occurs on the parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun. Rare melanomas can occur in parts of the skin or body that have never been exposed to the sun.
Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, which along with New Zealand has the world’s highest incidence rate for melanoma.
Source: Cancer Council Australia
‘The scary thing is that on the surface it didn’t look like anything had changed, it had always been a slightly irregular mole, so it did require someone to look at it with a microscope,’ Cate said.
She added that even those who are vigilant with their skin need to seek professional help.
‘When you get the call telling you have a melanoma it’s not the most reassuring conversation but the doctors were incredibly good at communicating that it wasn’t serious but it did need to be treated,” she explained.
‘I went in for a skin check one day, I was diagnosed the next day and had the surgery the third day.’
‘It was a big shock for me, I’d always had moles on my skin and we’re always told to look out for changes or new spots but this developed but it developed in a mole I’d had on me my whole life,’ she said
Within three days she was in the ‘all clear’ so there wasn’t much time for contemplation.
She was worried about whether it would impact her training time but her doctors helped her with all of her necessary recovery.
The 26-year-old said that while she has been bringing awareness to sun safety she has met a young family who have lost their father and husband to melanoma.
The 26-year-old said she met a young family who had lost their father and husband to melanoma
What are the symptoms of melanoma?
Often melanoma has no symptoms, however, the first sign is generally a change in an existing mole or the appearance of a new spot. These changes can 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
Source: Cancer Council Australia
‘It was eight months from diagnosis to death and he’s left behind three lovely daughters and a loving wife,’ the swimmer said.
‘As someone in my mid 20s I wouldn’t have thought too much about it but it speaks to the damage and the trauma melanoma can cause.’
Cate said that these days all Australians are taught to ‘slip, slop, slap’ when it comes to looking after their skin and it’s easy to make kids cover up.
But this message is just as important when children enter their teenage years and their twenties.
‘Everyone wants a perfect tan but not if it comes with a cost. Get checked, it takes an hour out of your day once a year which isn’t a lot and it could potentially change your life,’ she said.
‘As someone in my mid 20s I wouldn’t have thought too much about it but it speaks to the damage and the trauma melanoma can cause,’ she said
‘I constantly think about if I hadn’t had my skin checked. Before running into my friend it was at the bottom of my priority list and I’m so thankful it quickly jumped to the top.’
Cate said that a lot of people are guilty of going outside and not putting on sunscreen, or simply forgetting that they need to.
She suggests people keep little bottles of sunscreen in their bags and in their cars in case they need it.
Melanoma March is happening across 23 locations across the country, to register for your closest march or donate for life-saving melanoma research, visit melanomamarch.org.au.