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10th January 2020

My Skin Cancer Diagnosis and Struggles with Anxiety

In 2018, 27 year-old Lauren Coathup found that she had been diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer in the UK [1]

After years of being told she looked ‘healthy’ with a summer glow, Lauren (27) is now keen to share her skin cancer story, in the hope that others in the UK stay safe and care for their skin.

 

Like many, Lauren was under the impression that on summer days in England, sitting out in the garden was just a great way to get a ‘healthy tan’. There is, of course, no such thing[1] and without a hat, sunscreen or protective clothing to help protect her when she was out in the sun, that’s something Lauren quickly found out.

 

Lauren first noticed a little lump on the side of her nose in January 2018, but never considered its severity. It was only when holidaying in Italy, 6 months later, that she realised its colour had stayed fair while her skin had darkened, and its size had increased significantly; at which point she visited her GP.

 

She was referred from GPs to Dermatologists and eventually, after months of confusion and non-diagnosis, Lauren was referred for a biopsy. On Christmas Eve in 2018, Lauren received a letter with her devastating diagnosis of Basal Cell Carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that develops slowly in the upper layers of the skin.[2]

 

Lauren said: “I felt so shocked to receive my diagnosis. I didn’t think it would happen to someone like me; at my age, living in the UK and with my lifestyle. I always liked having a tan and I’m mortified to say this now, but I would put my diagnosis down to my skin being exposed to the sun without protection.”

 

Doctors were concerned that Lauren’s cancer could spread further into her nose cartilage but wouldn’t know until they started her Mohs surgery, which is a surgical technique used to remove skin cancer. On the 16th and 19th of August 2019, Lauren had her removal and reconstructive plastic surgery and, to both her and her surgeon’s delight, discovered that the cancer hadn’t spread.

 

She said: “I felt very uneasy and there was a lot of apprehension around my surgeries. It’s caused me a lot of anxiety and I prepared for the worst, but thankfully I haven’t lost the structure of my nose, I’ve just lost the side of it.”

 

When asked about her post-surgery life, Lauren comments: “I’m extremely lucky to have a strong support system of friends, family, and boyfriend, but I never anticipated the mental struggles following on from this. For a while, I was paranoid about going outside in the daytime sun, but when I began using the SunSense products to help block UV rays, I felt protected. It’s been the key thing that helped me hold it together, and helped maintain normality for me.”

 

Lauren was recommended the SunSense range of sunscreens with SPF50+ by every medical professional she met along her recovery journey.

 

She adds: “I now wear sunscreen everyday, I love it! I’ve swapped my foundation for SunSense Daily Face SPF50+, and I use the SunSense Lip Balm SPF50+ everyday. What I found most surprising is that UV rays can be higher on a cloudy day than on sunny days[3], so I now use the Met Office App every morning to see what UV rays will be present that day.”

 

Stephanie Young from SunSense said: “Lauren’s story has such a powerful message that we hope will help to make others think twice about putting themselves at risk in the sun, both at home in the UK and when holidaying abroad.”

 

Regularly checking your skin can lead to an early diagnosis of skin cancer. If you notice any changes or are concerned about a mole, then make sure you visit your GP.

 

[1] World Health Organisation. The Known Health Effects of UV. [Internet] 2019 [cited 2019 December 9] Available from https://www.who.int/uv/faq/uvhealtfac/en/index2.html

[2] NHS UK. Skin Cancer Non Melanoma. Types of non-melanoma skin cancer. [Internet] 2019 [cited 2019 December 9] Available from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/non-melanoma-skin-cancer

[3] Gov.uk. Public Health Matters. Things you need to know about UV. [Internet] 2019 [Cited 2019 November 04] Available from https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2016/04/18/nine-things-you-need-to-know-about-uv-ultraviolet-radiation/

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