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Olympic gold medallist Cate Campbell on how she discovered she had melanoma.

Cate Campbell had the mole on her upper arm her whole life.

It had never changed in size or shape so she hadn’t given it much thought, but a timely chat with an old friend may have saved her life.

The Olympic gold medallist told the Daily Mail she met up with an old friend in November 2018 who had a scar on his forearm from a melanoma scare. It was this that prompted her to get a skin check.

The day after the check, Campbell was told she had stage one melanoma growing in the mole on her arm.

 

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The Melanoma Institute Australia told Mamamia one Australian dies from melanoma every five hours.

Early detection is vital because when caught early 90% of melanomas can be treated with surgery alone. If diagnosis is delayed, melanoma cells may spread around the body.

Campbell said her diagnosis was a big shock as she’d always had moles and had always been told to look out for new or changing spots, but her mole had not changed.

Cate Campbell
The champion swimmer was concerned about the surgery impacting her training, but she was back in the pool just weeks later. Image: Getty.
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It was safely removed, but Campbell was inspired to advocate for the importance of being sun smart and getting regular skin checks.

"When you get the call telling you have a melanoma it's not the most reassuring conversation but the doctors were incredibly good at communicating that it wasn't serious but it did need to be treated," she said.

"I went in for a skin check one day, I was diagnosed the next day and had the surgery the third day."

She has been named as the Melanoma Institute's national ambassador.

"As Australians, we spend so much time in the sun and with melanoma the most common cancer in young Australians I want to make sure people know the importance of having skin checks," she said.

"As someone with pale, freckly skin, keeping up with freckles and sun spots is difficult, but my melanoma developed in a mole I had my whole life and on the surface it looked like nothing had changed. I shudder to think what would have happened had I not had that mole checked. It literally saved my life."

The Melanoma Institute advise people to follow the ABCDE guidelines when checking their skin, and seek medical advice if they notice the following:

A- Asymmetry: one half does not match the other.

B- Border: the edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.

C- Colour: the colour is not the same all over.

D- Diamater: the area is larger than 6mm or is growing.

E- Evolving: changing in size, shape, colour, elevation or is itching, bleeding or crusting.

Of course, sunburn increases your risk of developing melanoma so prevention is best. Seeking shade, covering up with clothing, wearing a hat and sunglasses and applying (and reapplying!) an SPF 50+ sunscreen are the Melanoma Institute's advice for living a sun-safe life.

Campbell will be taking part in the Melanoma March in Brisbane next month to raise awareness about the importance of being sun smart and raise money for research projects to find a cure for melanoma. There will be 23 events covering every state and territory.

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