Mum Sarah O’Brien diagnosed with skin cancer after driving without wearing sunscreen
A 37-year-old mother has opened up on the horrifying moment doctors told her the ‘annoying pimple’ on her temple was actually cancer.
Sydney mum Sarah O’Brien dismissed the growth above her right eye as blemish before going to a clinic to get it removed when it was still there two months later.
‘Every time I flicked my fringe with my fingers I would touch it, which annoyed me, so I wanted it gone for that reason,’ Sarah told FEMAIL.
‘I walked into the skin clinic thinking nothing of it, then the doctor said it “doesn’t look right”.’
Tests revealed it was a Basal Cell Carcinoma, a common skin cancer, which had to be removed immediately.
Mum-of-one Sarah O’Brien was diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) in May 2022 – a common type of skin cancer. Three months prior she noticed a lump on her right temple and thought it was a pimple but when it started to grow and hurt she got it checked out
Eight months on the mum is sharing her story so others can be mindful of the signs.
She said the news came as a ‘complete shock’ as she had had a skin check five months before doctors confirmed the growth was cancerous.
Sarah, now 38, believes driving with the sun hitting her face – and not wearing SPF in the car – caused the spot to appear, because it was on her driver’s side above her eye.
‘I’ve always been sun smart and wear sunscreen daily when I know I’m going to be in the sun – but I never thought about wearing sunscreen while driving,’ she said.
Sarah said skin cancer runs in her family and she’s aware of the danger of the sun while spending time outdoors.
She also said getting a diagnosis was easy.
The doctor conducted a quick needle biopsy to remove a sample from the lump and send it on to the lab for testing.
A few days later Sarah was called back into the clinic to discuss the results – and was told it was cancerous.
The now 38-year-old believes the lump grew as a result of not wearing sunscreen while driving, as the lump was on the drivers side of her face
‘It was confronting for sure, I think everyone believes they’re invincible until something happens,’ she said.
Thankfully the cancer was benign and hadn’t spread elsewhere in the body, so it only needed to be removed without any further treatment.
For that reason, Sarah considers herself to be lucky.
‘I used to think cancer was an ‘”old person’s problem”… but now I know that definitely isn’t the case and can happen to anyone of any age,’ she said.
Thankfully the cancer was benign and hadn’t spread elsewhere in the body, so it only needed to be removed without any further treatment. After the prognosis the doctor removed the lump that day with local anaesthetic, but also needed to take ‘around 3mm of tissue’ surrounding it, leaving Sarah needed between seven to nine stitches
After the prognosis the doctor removed the lump that day with local anaesthetic, but also needed to take ‘around 3mm of tissue’ surrounding it, leaving Sarah needed between seven to nine stitches.
The scarring took five months to heal with Sarah using bio oil to assist the wound.
Today she wears sunscreen whenever she leaves the house and teaches sun safety to her three-year-old son.
‘It’s so important to get your skin checked – and for young people to take care of their skin,’ she said.
‘It’s so important to get your skin checked – and for young people to take care of their skin,’ she said
Top tips for using sun cream:
* Put it on clean, dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before you go out in the sun to allow it time to interact with your skin. Re-apply it just before you go out – you’ll increase the amount applied and be more likely to get the stated SPF benefit.
* Cover all parts of the body not protected by clothing (don’t forget your ears, the back of your neck, the backs of your hands and the tops of your feet).
* Apply it evenly, and don’t rub it in excessively – most sunscreens will absorb into the outer layer of skin and don’t need to be rubbed in vigorously.
* Re-apply at least once every two hours and after swimming or exercise.
* Think beyond the beach and pool – use sunscreen whenever you go outdoors for a significant amount of time, such as to the park, a lunchtime walk to the shops, playing sports or gardening.
* Store your sunscreen at a temperature of less than 30 degrees Celsius. If you leave it in the glovebox of your car or in the sun, it may lose its effectiveness. Keep it in the esky with the drinks, in the shade or wrapped in a towel.
* Don’t use sunscreens that have passed their expiry date as they may have lost their effectiveness.
Two in three Australians will develop skin cancer by the age of 70 – but new TAL research reveals most Australians are unaware of just how common skin cancer is in Australia, with more than 7 in 10 (72 per cent) believing the rate of diagnosis is lower.
TAL’s General Manager of Health Services, Dr Priya Chagan, says Aussies should apply sunscreen every morning and reapply during the day, check the forecasted UV levels daily, and learn how to self-check.
‘Regularly checking your own skin can help to maximise the chance of detecting skin cancer early and greatly increases the chance of successful treatment,’ Dr Chagan said.
‘Despite the importance of self-checking in early detection, only 36 per cent of Australians know how to self-check their skin.’
To learn how to self-check your skin and book a skin check at your local GP, visit the TAL website here.