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Mum who delayed her life-saving operation to remove skin cancer warns it can ‘happen to anyone’

A first-time mum has revealed how she bravely delayed a life-saving operation and left skin cancer growing on her face so she could give birth safely to her son – and needed a chunk of her forehead removed because the once ‘tiny mark’ grew so big.

Rachael Rollisson, 32, from Redditch, Worcestershire,  noticed the mark on the right side of her forehead years ago but thought it was just a birthmark. 

But she began to worry when she realised the mark stayed white while the rest of her face turned red while exercising.

It became ‘more prominent’ during her pregnancy and prompted her to get it checked and was giving the devastating diagnosis that it was basal cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer. 

It came as a shock because she has always been careful with suncream and doesn’t sit in the sun much because her fair skin colours easily.

Not wanting to do anything that could jeapordise her pregnancy, Rachael decided to wait for surgery, which she had at Solihull Hospital, on January 15th – four months after welcoming her son, James, with her husband Adam, 33.

The fitness business owner has now shared shocking photos of the hole in her forehead after surgery and the large scar she’s been left with, to warn people about the risk of skin cancer even for those who aren’t ‘sun-worshippers’. 

Rachael Rollisson, 32, from Redditch, Worcestershire, noticed the mark on the right side of her forehead years ago but thought it was just a birthmark, pictured with her baby James Rollisson

Four months after the mum and her husband Adam Rollisson, 33, welcomed their baby James Rollisson, she had surgery at Solihull Hospital, on January 15th

Four months after the mum and her husband Adam Rollisson, 33, welcomed their baby James Rollisson, she had surgery at Solihull Hospital, on January 15th

After being diagnosed, she faced a terrifying nine month wait until after she had given birth to have surgery, allowing the cancer to spread. 

‘I first noticed it a few years ago but stupidly I didn’t get it checked out until recently,’ she revealed. 

‘I thought it was a birthmark to start off with so I didn’t really think anything of it, just because I’d had it for so long and it never grew from what I saw anyway.

‘But when I fell pregnant last year I really started really noticing a difference – it started looking more prominent even when I wasn’t exercising and it looked bigger around the edges so it was growing.

‘I had this test where they basically take a section of it out like a hole punch and test it and the results came back that it was low grade skin cancer.

The fitness business owner has now shared shocking photos of the hole in her forehead after surgery and the large scar she's been left with, to warn people about the risk of skin cancer even for those who aren't 'sun-worshippers'.

Rachel is pictured recovering

The fitness business owner has now shared shocking photos of the hole in her forehead after surgery and the large scar she’s been left with, to warn people about the risk of skin cancer even for those who aren’t ‘sun-worshippers’. 

After being diagnosed, she faced a terrifying nine month wait until after she had given birth to have surgery, allowing the cancer to spread. Pictured while recovering

After being diagnosed, she faced a terrifying nine month wait until after she had given birth to have surgery, allowing the cancer to spread. Pictured while recovering

WHAT IS BASAL CELL CARCINOMA?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Non-melanoma means it does not involve skin pigment cells.  

BCC often appears as scabs that bleed

BCC often appears as scabs that bleed

BCC makes up more than 80 per cent of all forms of skin cancer in the UK, with over 100,000 new cases being diagnosed every year.

It is mainly caused by overexposure to UV light from the sun or tanning beds. 

BCC can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck and ears.

The following people are most at risk:

  • People with fair skin or hair
  • Those who work outdoors
  • People who use sunbeds
  • Those with a personal history of the condition

BCC is usually painless. Early symptoms often only include a scab that bleeds occasionally and does not heal.

Some appear as flat, red, scaly marks or have a pearl-like rim. The latter can then erode into a ulcer.

Others are lumpy with shiny nodules crossed by blood vessels.

Most BCCs can be cured, however, treatment is complex if they are left for a long time. 

Treatment usually involves removing the cancerous tumour and some of the surrounding skin.

Source: British Skin Foundation and NHS Choices 

‘I knew it could just keep spreading and growing and I just wanted to get it out. But being pregnant, I didn’t want to cause any issues with that.

‘After finding out what it was and having to wait to get it removed it was playing on my mind quite a bit.

‘While I had to wait to have the surgery I was worrying about it spreading – I’d already had it for a few years and I just kept thinking, “How much bigger is it going to get in that time?”

After visiting her local GP in February 2021 she was referred to a dermatologist at Kidderminster Hospital in May, where a test confirmed she had basal cell carcinoma. She is pictured with her husband

After visiting her local GP in February 2021 she was referred to a dermatologist at Kidderminster Hospital in May, where a test confirmed she had basal cell carcinoma. She is pictured with her husband

‘I knew the bigger the area was the bigger the scar would be and it was already quite a big area. If I’d left it any longer it could have gone into my eyebrow or hairline which isn’t nice to think.

‘But it was definitely worth it to have my baby here and healthy and both of us are okay now.’

She first noticed the mark on her face in 2015 but brushed it off for years until it started to look more prominent during her pregnancy last year.

At the beginning of 2021, a suspicious mole on her mum’s back was diagnosed as low grade skin cancer, which also encouraged Rachael to get her mark checked out.

She first noticed the mark on her face in 2015 (Pictured) but brushed it off for years until it started to look more prominent during her pregnancy last year.

She first noticed the mark on her face in 2015 (Pictured) but brushed it off for years until it started to look more prominent during her pregnancy last year.

Rachel said: 'They allowed me to take a picture of the hole left by the section they took out before they sewed it back up again so that was quite scary seeing that'

Rachel said: ‘They allowed me to take a picture of the hole left by the section they took out before they sewed it back up again so that was quite scary seeing that’ 

After visiting her local GP in February 2021 she was referred to a dermatologist at Kidderminster Hospital in May, where a test confirmed she had basal cell carcinoma.

With the NHS waiting time for an operation being up to two years, Rachael decided to go private for Mohs surgery – where a specialist cuts away the affected area and further another layer of skin to make sure they get all of the cancerous cells. 

Rachael said: ‘I was fully awake for the surgery and that was the scariest thing.

‘They injected the area with local anaesthetic so I had quite a few injections in my head to numb it and that was probably the most painful part of it.

With the NHS waiting time for an operation being up to two years, Rachael decided to go private for Mohs surgery - where a specialist cuts away the affected area and further another layer of skin to make sure they get all of the cancerous cells.

With the NHS waiting time for an operation being up to two years, Rachael decided to go private for Mohs surgery – where a specialist cuts away the affected area and further another layer of skin to make sure they get all of the cancerous cells.

The mum says her skin cancer diagnosis came as a shock as she has always been careful with suncream and doesn't sit in the sun much.

The mum says her skin cancer diagnosis came as a shock as she has always been careful with suncream and doesn’t sit in the sun much.

‘They cut the skin away and take it away for a few hours to test it and make sure they’ve got all of it.

‘They got it all in one go the first time so I was quite lucky and then I went back in for an hour and a half to have it sewn back up.

‘That was probably the worst bit because it was a lot of pulling and tugging of the skin, which wasn’t nice at all. The feeling of the skin being pulled over is going to haunt me.

‘They allowed me to take a picture of the hole left by the section they took out before they sewed it back up again so that was quite scary seeing that.

Pregnant Rachael , 32, with her sister and fellow skipping champion Rebecca Cooper, 33

Pregnant Rachael , 32, with her sister and fellow skipping champion Rebecca Cooper, 33

‘I didn’t think it would be that big of a surgery so when I came out of the surgery I was quite upset because the scar was so big but I’m just relieved I’m in the clear now.’

After her scary experience, she warns that ‘it can happen to anyone’ and hopes to encourage people to get their skin checked.

Rachael said: ‘I’m not really a sun-worshipper but I do tan really easily. I wasn’t in the sun often at all, not enough to expect to have something like this anyway.

‘It’s scary because it shows that it really can happen to anyone, even if you’re not a sun-worshipper.

‘I’ve always been quite careful with suncream but I’ll definitely be even more careful now, especially with the baby.

‘I would just advise people to get anything different on their skin checked out definitely.’

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