Aussie mum's plea after 'pimple' leads to alarming diagnosis: 'Before you regret it'

Kate Bourke said she never would have thought the tiny blemish could be more than just a pimple.

Aussies are being reminded about the importance of regular skin checks after an unassuming spot on a woman's face turned out to be cancer.

Kate Bourke, from Queensland, said she noticed a tiny "pimple" reappearing on and off for two years, and at first thought nothing of it. But a previous health scare prompted the 34-year-old to get it checked, and the pimple-like mark was revealed to actually be squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

SCC accounts for about 30 per cent of non-melanoma skin cancers, according to the Cancer Council. The other 70 per cent is basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which Kate also had removed from her face.

Kate Bourke squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer on face.
Kate Bourke was shocked to learn a pimple on her face was actually skin cancer. Source: Supplied

"If I hadn't had the BCC on my nose removed previously, I would not have ever even considered the pimple on my cheek could have been skin cancer," she told Yahoo News Australia

"I'm a redhead so naturally I burn very easily. If I'm going to go do something outdoors like mow or go for a walk (rare) I always put sunscreen on. I tend to avoid doing anything outdoors for very long because I know I'm going to burn."

It's estimated that more than 1,500 people have been diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer so far this year. The average age at diagnosis is 76-years-old, but it can affect people of all ages. And while most are not life-threatening, they can cause complications so people are encouraged to stay aware.

Signs and symptoms to look out for

Signs and symptoms of SCC include:

  • Thickened red, scaly spot

  • Rapidly growing lump

  • Looks like a sore that has not healed

  • May be tender to touch

While BCC often has no symptoms and tends to grow slowly without spreading to other parts of the body.

Dozens more share similar stories

The Queensland mum shared her story on social media this week as a reminder to Aussies to look for unusual spots of their bodies.

"I thought I would just remind everyone that something you may think is just a pimple may not be," she posted on Facebook. "Please get your skin checked before you regret it, and please see a skin cancer specialist not a GP."

Alarmingly, the post was flooded with comments from other women saying "me too" in response, including Brenna Facey, who had to have a cancerous spot surgically cut out from her face.

Read more about it: Two out of three Aussies will be diagnosed with this cancer in their lifetime

Australian woman gets basal cell carcinoma (BCC) skin cancer cut out of her face.
Brenna Facey had BCC surgically removed from her face. Source: Supplied

It was hidden in her smile line, barely noticeable. "Mine looked like a skin-coloured bump," she explained. Photos shared with Yahoo News show the wound.

"Looking back on photos I realised I’d had it for about 3 years before I noticed it," she said. "I was shocked to be diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma at age 39. I never thought it would happen to me. I was terrified as I knew nothing about it."

But Kate's warning came as a shock to some, with many vowing to get their skin checked ahead of summer.

"Wow thank you for sharing this. I have one almost in this exact spot that looks identical and also comes and goes... I'll definitely be getting it checked asap," one person commented.

"Thanks for sharing. I didn’t know it can look like that (which seems quite harmless). This is good to know," said another.

Melanoma is the most common cancer in young people

As the warmer months approach, the messaging has never been more important. In Australia, one person is diagnosed with melanoma every 30 minutes. Alarmingly, Melanoma is the most common cancer for 20 to 39-year-olds, the Melanoma Institute of Australia's CEO Matthew Browne told Yahoo News — and it starts with overexposure to UV.

"We need to ensure the younger demographic understands the seriousness of melanoma, the seriousness of a disease that can ultimately kill you," he said.

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