Music teacher’s ‘bump on the head’ turned out to be high-risk melanoma

A music teacher whose “bump on the head” turned out to be potentially deadly melanoma is taking part in a groundbreaking clinical trial.

Steve Young, 52, from Stevenage, was shocked to discover he had cancer after being misdiagnosed by a GP and dermatologists, none of whom thought he had anything serious.

He is now part of a trial led by University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) involving a Moderna mRNA anti-cancer jab combined with MSD’s immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

The jab offers patients hope of a cure and is custom-built for each person to tell the immune system to hunt down and kill cancer.

Mr Young, who received a jab at UCLH just a few weeks ago, told the PA news agency: “I had a bump on my head and I think I had it for possibly 10 years.

“One of my best friends is a retired GP and he did look at it a couple of times over the years and he said, ‘Oh, it’s okay, it’s nothing to worry about’.

Melanoma mRNA jab
Steve Young’s melanoma before it was removed. Steve Young/PA (PA)

“And then lockdown happened and so sort of two years went by where I didn’t see him or sort of see anyone else.

“But then I really started to notice it at the end of 2022. The bump just felt bigger and I was more aware of it.

“At the end of 2022, I asked my friend to look at it again and he said ‘I’m not happy with that, I think something’s changed, you need to get it checked’.”

Mr Young went to his GP but was told it was nothing to worry about.

He said: “He booked me in with the dermatologist anyway and when the appointment came through it was for October. I was kind of like ‘wow, that’s 10 months to wait for an appointment’.”

Mr Young was willing to wait to see a specialist, but then a girlfriend urged him to get the bump checked more urgently.

He went to a private mole check clinic, where staff called him the next day and said “at best” the lump was a basal cell carcinoma skin cancer and, at worst, melanoma.

“They told me I needed to call my GP that day,” Mr Young said. “It was massive shock.

“I rang my GP at 9am and I didn’t actually hear back from him until 6pm, so I spent the whole day in a complete state of panic, trying to try to teach kids and not let on.

“I had this feeling in my stomach that something really big had changed in my life.”

Steve Young is a music teacher and musician (PA)
Steve Young is a music teacher and musician (PA)

Mr Young saw an NHS dermatologist following a fast-track referral for suspected cancer, but the dermatologist and a trainee told him the bump was nothing to worry about.

Mr Young said: “The dermatologist said, ‘We’ll get you booked in and we’ll get it removed, we’ll just chop it out’, so I didn’t really think much about that.

“I just thought it was going to be a just a little shaving off the top.

“When I actually asked to look (during the operation), the surgeon showed me what he’d cut out and it was a really large part of my head.

“But he said, ‘This doesn’t look like anything to me’.

“So I came away from that operation with seven stitches in my head, thinking it was all over. I thought it was all over.”

Two weeks later, Mr Young was called back in and was told to bring somebody with him.

He said: “I went in and they told me that it was a 4.1mm nodular melanoma, which had been misdiagnosed now by five people.

“Any melanoma over 0.8mm they consider dangerous, so I knew I was potentially in trouble.”

Mr Young said he then did “the worst thing” which was to Google melanoma and “read articles on spending time with your friends, doing what’s important to you”.

Nurse Eleanor Ferguson gives an infusion to patient Steve Young at University College London Hospital (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Nurse Eleanor Ferguson gives an infusion to patient Steve Young at University College London Hospital (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

He added: “I literally spent two weeks just thinking ‘this is it’. My dad died of emphysema when he was 57 and I actually thought ‘I’m going to die younger than my dad’.”

When he was told about the trial at UCLH, Mr Young said it “really triggered my geek radar”.

He added: “When the Covid vaccine came out, and there was all these stories about the mRNA vaccine, I was just fascinated by it, I was fascinated by all the companies involved.

“It really piqued my interest. As soon as they mentioned this mRNA technology that was being used to potentially fight cancer, I was just like, ‘it sounds fascinating’ and I still feel the same. I’m really, really excited.

“I feel privileged to be involved in a such an important trial.”