A mother has claimed having a facial saved her life after her beautician spotted a suspicious mark which turned out to be cancerous.
Jillian Murray, from Cairns in Australia, went to see doctors about the discoloured area above her right breast in June last year — but was told it was nothing to worry about.
However, during a pampering session three months later the 62-year-old childcare centre owner was told to get it checked again ‘as soon as possible’.
Beautician of six years Leigh Murphy, 41, who runs the Rejuvie Skin Therapy salon, said she ‘didn’t like’ the mark which now resembled a ‘red bruise’.
After an appointment with a skin specialist a week later, Ms Murray was diagnosed with stage 2 skin cancer in her chest. Doctors also spotted skin cancer on her nose, which neither Ms Murray or her beautician noticed.
She underwent two operations to remove the cancerous cells, and said if it had been left any longer it could have reached her blood and spread around her body.
Ms Murray said: ‘It’s amazing for a beautician to find it when a doctor missed it first. She’s worth her weight in gold.
‘I’m a very lucky lady. Without her expertise I wouldn’t be here and my doctor said I won the lotto with her.’
Jillian Murray, 62, spotted a mark on her chest (circuled) last June but doctors told her not to worry. But after her beautician told her to get a second opinion, Ms Murray went to the doctors again where she was diagnosed with cancer on her chest and her nose
Mother-of-one pictured after the operation to remove the skin cancer from her chest and nose
Ms Murray pictured with her beautician Leigh Murphy, 41, who runs the Rejuvie Skin Therapy salon in Cairns, Australia. Ms Murray said: ‘It’s amazing for a beautician to find it when a doctor missed it first. She’s worth her weight in gold.’
At the breakthrough doctor’s appointment in October Ms Murray was diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma on her chest.
This is when the cancer has spread through the first and second layers of skin, and is at risk of reaching the lymph system — a circulatory system similar to the blood — and spreading around the body.
Doctors also detected basal cell carcinoma on her nose, a different type of skin cancer which is completely unrelated to melanomas.
Neither Ms Murray or her beautician had spotted any signs on her nose that it might also have cancer.
Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include a shiny, skin-coloured bump and a flat scaly patch on an area of skin.
Catching and removing skin cancer before it spreads to other parts of the body is crucial to maximising the chances of a patient surviving.
About 98 per cent of melanoma patients live for five years or more if the cancer is caught at stage 1 or 2 — when it is still in the skin.
But this drops to 63 per cent when it makes it to the circulatory system — stage 3 — and 15 to 20 per cent when it reaches other areas of the body — stage 4.
Basal cell carcinomas rarely spread to other areas of the body, and almost everyone diagnosed with it in the early stages survives. But this is reduced if it spreads to other areas.
Ms Murray underwent her first operation to remove both cancers at the end of November.
But the cancer in her chest had gone so deep that a second operation was needed two weeks later, where doctors cut 4cm deep into her chest to remove it.
Describing the moment her beautician spotted the cancer, Ms Murray said: ‘I was getting my skin cleaned and she said she didn’t like the mark on my chest.
Ms Murray continued receiving treatment at the salon after her operation to help her skin heal over. But she said there will always be a scar
Ms Murray’s chest pictured after the operation with the wound almost completely healed, and after it had healed over on both her chest and nose
‘It looked like a red bruise. As soon as she saw it, she said I need to get it looked at as soon as possible.
‘Prior to that, about six months before, I saw another doctor and they told me to put a cream on it and said nothing to worry about, it’s fine.
‘I’ve been seeing Leigh for a few years. She went over me like a fine-tooth comb. She told me on a Friday that the mark needed to be looked at so I booked in the following week.
‘When I tell her she’s saved my life, she gets goosebumps, she’s overwhelmed and she’s so pleased that her training has taught her what to do.’
Ms Murray said after the operations she was in ‘ridiculous’ pain, and several months later the feeling still hasn’t returned in her right breast or chest.
When it was first diagnosed, she said that she was ‘shaking’ and ‘thought her life was over’ and that it ‘would be in the blood system’.
‘I didn’t know the extent of how horrific it was. It was really bad. If it gets in your bloodstream, it’s bad.
‘(But) I was just outside of the margin so they didn’t have to take my lymph nodes out and I have to be checked out every three months.’
Ms Murray and husband Paul, 58, (left). The couple run a childcare centre together in Cairns, Australia. She is pictured right with her daughter Hayley, 32
Talking about her recovery, she said: ‘I looked disgusting but I’m healing now.
‘My face is good but make up covers it, my chest is pretty bad. I’m still scarred and I will be forever.’
Ms Murray and Ms Murray have now become good friends, with Ms Murray saying she is always raving about the Rejuvie Skin Therapy salon.
Online it is described as a ‘small, family-owned’ business in Australia. It has one five-star Google review from a customer saying they have visited for more than a year, and more than 1,500 followers on Instagram.
Ms Murphy said: ‘I’m so happy I was able to help my friend as the oncologist advised that if it was left any longer it would’ve gone into her lymph nodes.’
Ms Murray runs a childcare centre with husband Paul, 58. She also has a daugher Hayley, 32, who has helped her mother with her recovery.
Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumours.
- Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
- Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma
- Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
- Hair colour: Red heads are more at risk than others
- Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
- Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk
This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary.
The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent.
- Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy:
This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body.
- Use sunscreen and do not burn
- Avoid tanning outside and in beds
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
- Keep newborns out of the sun
- Examine your skin every month
- See your physician every year for a skin exam
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society