By Claire Ottaviano
FROM a battle for the people to a battle for her health, Save Perth Hills’ Paige McNeil is stepping back from planning issues and stepping up for melanoma awareness.
The Stoneville resident is on an urgent waitlist for surgery to remove a melanoma discovered on her cheek after a biopsy this month.
Luckily, Mrs McNeil caught her melanoma early and wants to use her diagnosis as an opportunity to encourage others to get their annual, or more often for those with previous melanoma, skin check.
“Within two days of the biopsy they said it was a melanoma in situ, which is a melanoma zero,” she said.
“What it means is that [the cancer cells] are just in the epidermis and it hasn’t grown roots yet.
“The specialist said if I’d left it another two to three months it would have been a different situation.
“What I thought was a sunspot was a ticking time bomb on my cheek.”
Melanomas are the most dangerous form of skin cancer because they grow very quickly and can enter the lymphatic system or bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body.
It is the third most common cause of cancer in Australia, which has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.
Mrs McNeil had her most recent skin check two years ago and only noticed a change in a spot on her face after being filmed for a Save Perth Hills video in July.
“When I watched it back I noticed in one of the close-up shots it looks like it had spread,” she said.
“I said to my husband do you think it’s spread and he said, yeah I do.
“That was in mid-July and it still took me until the end of August to go have a skin check.”
Now, every glance in the mirror is a reminder of the doctor’s appointment that led to the cancer’s early detection.
“We get busy,” she said.
“Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months.
“We live in a fast-paced world and think, I’ll do that tomorrow.
“The message here is get your skin checked.”
There are three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. known as non-melanoma skin cancer, and the most dangerous form, melanoma.
Although melanoma is the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39-year-old Australians, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer by the time they are 70.
“Being on my face it’s quite confronting for me personally but as I said [catching it at this stage] has been a saving grace,” she said.
“Luckily I wasn’t banking on a late modelling career.
“Go to a skin place, book it in, get it done.”
Mrs McNeil has handed over the reins of the Save Perth Hills chair position to focus on her health.